by Priya Banerjee
photo courtesy of Priya Banerjee
[originally published June 3, 2022]
Happy Commencement Issue of The Grape! I feel like I go to a completely different school than the one I first met in the Fall of 2018. People think about this place so much differently than they used to and It's hard to even think of my freshman year at Oberlin as something connected to whatever it is now. Everyone felt bigger, stronger, scarier, sexier, and weirder back then. Everyone took this place very seriously and it was so, so fun and scary to exist in that fucked up little world. Now Oberlin doesn’t seem to care that much. No one feels the need to try that hard anymore, for better and for worse. I’ve spent most of my senior year grasping at traditions that are so close to extinction that no one even really knows or remembers what they’re supposed to look like. Every time we re-enact a tradition from our foggy memories of freshman year it feels half-hearted and underwhelming. It almost doesn’t worth it to try and preserve what little we have left of pre-pandemic campus culture when it seems like no one wants to show up or go out or try hard for anything anymore. This graduating class is the last generation that experienced Oberlin how it used to be, and maybe it will take us leaving and letting go of all those old things for Oberlin to be reborn into something fun and new again. It’s sad but okay, and hopefully something way bigger, stronger, scarier, sexier, and weirder will be invented in our wake.
It may seem like it but I’m not a full-time grump. This year The Grape brought back the Hi-O-Hi after sixteen yearbookless years and it gave me some hope for whatever Oberlin is becoming. The “yearbook committee” was pretty much just Anna, Eva, and I pretending to be operating on a much more official level than we actually were. We worked with the Office of the Registrar to gauge the interest of the graduating class, and were soooooooo surprised by how many seniors wanted to be included. Because our team was so small, I was in charge of taking every single yearbook portrait. I dug up my mom’s old digital camera and snapped pics of hundreds of people, some of which were my nearest and dearest and others I had never seen in my life. We got people to send us pictures of their friends and campus and other weird stuff to be included in the yearbook and we compiled it all together in a pretty little book on glossy paper. Our only rule was no selfies allowed. Our 100 page soft-cover yearbook is wimpy compared to what the Hi-O-Hi yearbooks used to be, but my hope for this project was that it would be the first step in eventually bringing back the huge, hard-cover, 300 page yearbooks that inspired us to do this in the first place. It was my special little project and I hope that everyone will want to do it again next year and every year after that.
I obviously have an addiction to documenting and archiving every little thing, and it has left me with a huge collection of stuff over the past four years. As I start to pack up my room in preparation for leaving Oberlin I’ve been going through all the bits and pieces that I’ve picked up along the way. Almost every ‘Sco bracelet I’ve ever worn is jammed into a little wooden drawer next to my bed. Slowtrain receipts, library book slips, saveplate labels, old posters and flyers, and every Grape that has been published since my freshman year are safely stashed away in my personal archives. And I don’t plan on ever letting them go. One day we will be really old and won’t be able to remember anything at all, but I will have all my little collection of Oberlin artifacts to bring me back even after I am long gone. Goodbye Oberlin! And goodbye Grape! You have been very kind to me and I will miss you loads. Maybe one day we will see each other again…