It’s about 2 pm on Friday afternoon, and I’m stealthily eavesdropping on the strolling family in front of me as I head to Bartleby’s, my backpack heavy of finals material. Maybe it’s because I just finished my last Williams-Mystic class and I’m already feeling sentimental, or maybe it’s because of the sheer beauty of the scene along the river, the sun and blue sky reflected in the capillary waves, the white church in the distance standing in stark contrast to the green of the trees in full bloom…but I’m surprisingly struck by this innocent passing comment that wasn’t even made for my ears. I feel a twinge of sadness evoked by the realization that I am incredibly fortunate to have experienced the past 17 weeks. My perspective has been irrevocably changed, my wanderlust awakened, and my and sense of place altered forever.
In this instant I realize that perhaps the most difficulty I face in transitioning back to reality is in both trying to properly express what I have learned without sounding like a cliché, and also in recognizing that not everybody will understand. Is it really possible to depict a night watch on the bowsprit, the sound of waves penetrating the silent darkness, or the discovery of hidden pair of eyes staring directly into yours as you explore the tide pools of the Pacific, or the emotion of the people trying to endure the elements in a disappearing bayou? How can I explain how both humbling and empowering it is to be such a small part of the greater world? The answer is clear: I simply can’t. I can’t give this experience to anyone else. My words carry little weight in comparison to the depth of emotion and understanding I have gained over the past semester.
In spite of my evolution, my self-exploration, and the various lessons I have learned—academically and otherwise—a large part of this education has been the realization of my insignificance. However, as we finished Marine Policy for the last time today, Professor Katy Hall reminded me of something that would be all to easy to lose: the power of one. As we leave Mystic, we are newly empowered with knowledge about our changing world that few others possess. Individually we are small. As a group, we are 17. But we are 17 of the thousands who have chosen to make the ocean the focus of our universal understanding through the Mystic program. Perhaps more importantly, we are among the billions of people who inhabit this earth. Our choices matter.
So, as I write for the last time, I implore my classmates, my peers, and my friends – go out and make a difference. You have the power.