Swan Song: A final far ‘yell’

Benjamin Barnes will graduate from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s in telecommunication media studies on Thursday, May 9, 2024
Swan Song: A final far ‘yell’
Photo by Ethan Mattson

I’ve been here before. I’ve felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude and heartache previously. 

It was four years ago while standing alone on that graduation stage overlooking my classmates.  

Mortarboards and masks. My mind racing with the single question that plagues every 18-year-old. Pandemic aside, what in the hell were we going to do with the rest of our lives?  

Sure, finding a school, picking a major and living on your own are all daunting in their own regard, but for me, it was much simpler than that. I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the small blue-collar community that had shown me what it meant to truly work for something — to get my hands dirty. 

That’s the small-town Midwest for ya.

I was once again met with this existential dread not upon registering for my final set of classes or writing my final essay, but when walking back to the parking garage. The barrier arm gate that goes up and down letting people pass, had been demolished. 

The guard said some lifted F-250 tried to bypass payment by tailing a paying patron. I couldn’t take my eyes away. The whirling wimping arm was struggling to lift itself as electric voltage sprung out of it. Despite having every reason to quit, it didn’t. The arm persisted. 

My eyes watered uncontrollably. 

The parallel to every Aggies’ collective struggle to obtain their degree despite the pandemic, despite the incessant stream of self-doubt, despite having any and every reason to give up was clear. Every fightin’ Texas Aggie, a part of the Class of 2024, was at one point where that mechanical arm was. 

Whether it was waiting in the rain for the bus to finally arrive, being awoken in your twin bed as the train roared and rocked your dorm room at 3 a.m. or being dumped by your law-school-bound girlfriend under the juxtaposing warm glowing string lights outside of ILCB, we’ve all endured our unique set of inconveniences and tragedy. 

Of course, there were good times too. 

How could I forget the soft bubbly laughter that can only be shared by two girlfriends on their way to class, convincing an involuntary celibate roommate to go to Northgate on a Thursday night or recreating the “King of the World” scene from “Titanic” on a Veo bike only moments before wiping out onto the pavement.   

The reason I’m struggling to say goodbye to Aggieland is because there is no goodbye quite fitting enough. As the ancient Greek myth goes, the European Mute Swan lives its entire life in utter silence “only to sing one glorious and beautiful song just before it dies” thus giving us the term Swan Song. 

Needless to say this is not true, however, with the collegiate equivalent of death around the corner for an opinion columnist who “just wouldn’t shut up” now being at a loss of words, it’s kind of ironic, eh? 

After all, a proper goodbye would most likely mirror a valedictorian speech that extends advice to the classes beneath them, such as figuring out that placing an online order at Smoothie King allows you to skip the line that builds up after class. Then again, I never was the smartest or a particularly gifted orator.  

Perhaps a fitting goodbye would mention the time spent forming brotherhoods while waking up on countertops riddled with empty Coors Light and Shiner cans. Maybe even delving into the relatable experience of skipping class to get a fake tan and shop at Lululemon, but alas, I was never into Greek life. 

No matter, I guess I’ll have to settle with the fact that my time in College Station came and went —  same as anyone else. I have nothing extraordinary or special to show for my time here apart from the mundane experiences we all have. 

The truth is while I, and the rest of my class, will soon walk across that stage, we all “graduated” at different times. For me, it was seeing that mechanical arm, for others, it might’ve been when they killed that first job interview or made it to that last 8 a.m. class. 

Although, one thing is clear. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve realized the most important lesson of them all. What makes us Aggies so special, is our scarring. It’s our relentless adversity in the face of those challenges that ultimately define us — a trait that every class has in common — and it was a pleasure being a part of it with you.  

Now for one final time, say it with me, 

Beat the hell outta life … aye WHOOP!

Benjamin Barnes was a telecommunication media studies senior and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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