By Dominick Meyers
There was no time for a proper goodbye with my closest friends the morning after my college graduation. I had agreed to go on a cruise with my parents to the Bahamas that was scheduled to leave early the morning following the ceremony. If I wanted to be part of this congratulatory vacation, I would have to skip the sentimental farewells meant to mark the end of the four-year vacation that, for many of us, is college.
I boarded the ship thinking only of the fact that this cruise would be my last hurrah before entering the real world and not once about how being at sea for five days meant no Internet, no cell reception and no one to talk to besides my parents.
When I realized this, much too late, I tried to stay positive. After all, I was a college graduate now. Gone were the days of me being an ungrateful little shit to my parents. Now, I had a piece of paper confirming that I was formally educated and could surely go off the grid for a few days without any problem at all.
This, of course, is a lot easier said than done.
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I had only been on a cruise once before, during a high school senior class trip to Mexico, and I expected the vacation with my parents to be a similar escape from real life. However, I found myself thinking about my college friends the entire time.
No matter what I did, I wondered what my friends were up to: while I relaxed on the beach and my cheeks slowly toasted; while I read a book finally not required by a syllabus; while I snorkeled among schools of iridescent fish. My curiosity about my friends, and the cost of cabin Wi-Fi, was constant. So much did I secretly wish to be with them that whenever I looked at my parents, I started to feel guilty.
“I was a college graduate now. Gone were the days of me being an ungrateful little shit to my parents.”
Adults weren’t supposed to act this way. In my mind, adults were supposed to be mature and easygoing. But instead of me being an adult, I was in misery over the fact that I had no way of communicating with my friends until our five-day vacation was over. It was not until the last day out at sea that I finally was no longer haunted by their absence.
I was wandering the ship alone, avoiding questions from my parents about what it was I planned to do with an English degree during a gap year before law school, when I passed by the impressive-yet-tacky lounge area.
I noticed that everything about the lounge felt familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why. When I did decide to return to the deck, unsure as to what it was in the lounge I was looking for, I saw the name of the cruise printed boldly across the ship’s funnel. Then I realized why I recognized the lounge: I was on the same exact ship as I had been on four years prior.
Once I saw the name perfectly matched with the senior class trip paperwork I remembered filling out and begging my parents to sign, I wanted to reexamine the ship. I confirmed my hypothesis about the cruise ship being the same (but now visiting the Bahamas instead of Mexico) when I went to the fluorescent and smoky casino I had lost $50 to playing blackjack, the ice cream machine in the cafeteria that had given me food poisoning, and the adult-only dance club that had seemed cool at the time but cringe-worthy now.
At first, I laughed to myself for not recognizing the ship sooner. Then, I considered the coincidence of my situation.
Here I was, celebrating a graduation for a second time on the same cruise ship, but instead of getting excited by the fact that me and my high school classmates could legally order margaritas in Mexico, I was anxious about the unknown future.
I thought about how everything on that ship still seemed the same as it was before. Everywhere I looked, I experienced déjà vu. Mentally I was in-between states, knowing very well that what I remembered was from a time before, and yet, the visions felt so real in that moment.
“I noticed that everything about the lounge felt familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why.”
As crazy as it sounds, being back on that ship, feeling like my 18-year-old self again, I wondered if I had somehow made up the past four years of college in my head. The memories of my college friends felt out of reach, like some distant mirage.
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The first thing I did once I got back on dry land was upload the picture above.
Though rather odd and rather pink, I uploaded the photo because I felt as though I needed to. I needed for my friends to see the photo (any photo, really) and “like” it, therefore validating my existence and the past four years spent with them.
Thankfully, my friends did what they always do when I upload a photo: “like” the photo and then roast me so hard in the comments section for trying to look cool that I begin to regret posting anything at all.
Before boarding the cruise ship for the second time, I failed to admit how much I would miss my friends after graduating. Skipping the cruise to have one last goodbye with my friends would not have changed our college experience, but being together at the very end would have been cathartic.
Not being with my friends those five days on the cruise ship after graduation was hard, and it continues to be hard to this day as I try to navigate the adult world without them close by. But as nice as the prospect of going back to a less-adult time before college may seem, I know I wouldn’t wish for it. Being back on that cruise ship for the second time, wondering if I made up my college experience, made me realize that the only thing I am more afraid of than the future is knowing that there was once a time in my life when my college friends weren’t a part of it.
Luckily, my friends are still very much a part of my life, despite college and the cruise ending — the phone calls and the text messages and the Snapchats and the FaceTimes and the weekend trips to one another’s new homes and the “likes” on embarrassing photos confirm that.
Dominick Meyers still plans to attend law school, but for now works at a bank and reads books not required by a syllabus. He lives in Florida.