Departure

On August 8th, 2015, at 5:00 PM, My contract with Explo was officially terminated.

As the clock struck its bell five times, co-workers around me celebrated in glee, intentionally yelling obscenities to further signify the end of a working period. It was joyful moment, definitely. The culmination of being at Wheaton College for the past 7 weeks all pointed to this particular moment, where everyone could bask in the glory and pride of having been through it all.

Time, relatively speaking, is a dizzying concept. In the matter of 7 weeks, something that felt so far away approached me in an instant, and something that seemed to be in an instant felt longingly far. I was thoroughly impressed by the elastic quality of time, and I found myself once again obeying its game of push-and-pull. But perhaps this relativity is precisely the reason why we tend to remember time as an instance in a specific moment of our lives. As I sit in the corner of an airport cafe writing this post, I can say that even though my experiences at Explo weren’t always positive, my time at Explo was wonderful.

To truly celebrate the end of an era, we (the people of Explo) drove to Providence, Rhode Island, to spend our last night together at Dave & Buster’s, an arcade-style restaurant that can accurately be portrayed as an adult version of Chuck-e-Cheese’s. With our heart filled with the possibility of what tonight could bring into our lives, we nimbly marched up the escalator and made our way into the entrance of Dave & Buster’s.

Inside the place, a luxuriously quaint venue was waiting for us, and we took that venue like Alexander the Great ceasing the land of Egypt. At this juncture in time, the concept of work-related hierarchy vanished into thin air, and we all gave up our titles that we so closely identified ourselves with in the past 7 weeks –  residential adviser, programming assistant, assistant dean, and so on. In that venue, we were just a person talking to another person, an individual conversing with another individual, a human soul interacting with another human soul. The beauty in the deconstruction of our identity was surely evident in that room, and no one could deny the fact that we survived the summer together and survived it quite gloriously.

As alcohol slowly warmed up our physical and social self, emotions started to intensify, motions became wilder, and words started to mingle into an incoherent slur. Being lighter than a feather, I only needed two sips of diluted vodka to feel the effect of alcohol on my conscience. It’s interesting how one realizes the change inside one’s body, but there is absolutely nothing one does to counteract this change. As alcohol slowly disseminated throughout my digestive system, I took the form of a debutante in the Roaring Twenties: overtly sociable and obnoxiously laudatory of others.

The night succumbed to the elasticity of time once again, and the idea of hours and minutes seemed to lose its function as a means of tracking time. Everybody was now in a state of inebriation, and you could not deny the cataclysmic shift in some people’s personality when they are drunk. At the arcade area, the effects of alcohol could be seen clearly; It was as if one could physically see profanity floating around in the atmosphere, waiting to be devoured by another foul-mouthed individual.

But inside the details of profanity and vulgarity, I could detect the untethered happiness of everyone. If a movie director walked in and shot a still frame of the arcade room, there would have been joy radiating from the frame. The smiles were genuine, the hugs were passionate, and the lives of everyone were being lived the way they should be lived. Looking on from a bar table, I could not help but solemnly grin at the visual manifestation of the end of Explo and – quite frankly – the end of our companionship.

All great movies have memorable endings, and this night was no exception. When the clock struck midnight, everybody faced the inevitable that they have all been avoiding since the beginning of tonight: saying goodbyes. Usually, I am unaffected by farewells, as I believe that our lives are the culmination of goodbyes and hellos we say in our lives, and that tonight is also an instant where my belief is validated. But my emotion could not be deceived, and I felt empty with each goodbye I uttered to everyone I met at Explo. I think that farewell is a tangible indication of the emotional proximity between two individuals, and each goodbye revealed to me just how close I was with some of these people.

In the end, however, farewells are what give meaning to the encounters we have with others. We remember things that we miss and things that are not in our lives anymore, and as I am writing this, I am feeling the void of Explo more than ever. But my time at Explo was beautiful because I got to say goodbye. So once again, we all depart back into another sphere of our lives, knowing that our spheres commingled over the summer, and that we commingled pretty damn tightly.

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