Max Bevilacqua ’12 presented a “Senior Voices” speech in Memorial Chapel on May 26.
There aren’t many places that I have felt comfortable wearing a dress in public. If you had told me, before I transferred from Georgetown, that in a few short months I would be sporting a cute little pink number with a deep v-neck in Beckham Hall, my Jesuit professors would have cried, and I would have laughed in disbelief. And if you had told me, that in a few short months at Wesleyan, I would be welcomed so warmly, challenged so fiercely, or inspired so deeply…I’m not sure I would have believed that either.
The night before my parents dropped me off on campus, I was curled up in the fetal position on the pullout couch of the Rocky Hill Marriot – taking comfort only in my reasonably priced Wesleyan sweatshirt from Broadstreet Books located conveniently at the intersection of Broad and William street. I didn’t think I could handle transferring as a junior. It wasn’t just about classes or making friends – it was the fear that I would never really feel like I belonged to the place I was walking into so late.
From the start, Wesleyan was a humbling experience. I missed the fact that it was prerequisite to have the voice of an angel or the ability to nonchalantly paint like Rembrandt. But I was going to be a varsity tennis player here…until I didn’t make the team. And then I wanted to play lacrosse, because my body is naturally built for contact sports. But apparently sitting on the bench of my high school lacrosse team freshmen year wasn’t sufficient experience to play varsity at the college level. Many of the other activities I thought were part of my perfect plan for successful integration didn’t work out either. But there was never a shortage of doors to open or people to encourage me to keep opening them. And even though navigating to my sport and my niche hasn’t been a straightforward voyage, I’m so glad I have been able to make so may stops along the way. And don’t worry I ended up making the fiercest team we have here…the Debate team.
There is just something about Wes people – and by Wes people I mean the Professors who have challenged me to have these things called convictions and who have taken the time to support and get to know me more than I could have ever anticipated in only two years of being here. I also mean our cleaning and culinary staff who remembered when my midterms were and what my first ex-girlfriend’s name was. And then there are, of course, the friends I will have for the rest of my life. It may be because we’re the kind of people who give hugs instead of handshakes, but it is definitely because the close community of Wesleyan has meant feeling how incredibly contagious passion can be – our close community on the other-hand has also shown how highly contagious norovirus can be.
The initial feeling I had of panic and being overwhelmed has been transformed into inspiration to fuel my own interests and to find the humility to appreciate the beauty of what others can do that I cannot. My only regret has been the ability to have been long enough to fall in love with a place and its people and not to have the time to get to know so many of these people that I wish I could. But I’m proud to say that I am graduating with peers from a university that accepts and cultivates students who are not only amazing for what they do, but because of who they are. And whether I had the fortune of being friends with you or not, I’m going to go out into the world and pretend that we were and sincerely hope to make that a reality.
Now, I’m not going to do that thing where I tell you about life and reference some German philosopher or something like that – but if I were to it, would probably sound something like this…
I am fascinated by Martin Buber, not just because I don’t know how he survived middle school with that last name, but because of his idea of human relationships: He tells us that there are two: “I-it” relationships and “I-thou” relationships. An “I-it” relationship would be the way that one sees a tree – it’s just a tree unless you deeply commune with the tree and feel the consciousness of the tree…which I have come to understand, is a distinct possibility here. And we can have these I-it relationships with people too, where we don’t really see them, hear them, or understand them. But in an I-thou relationship the concept of an “I” fades away and one experiences “thou,” which Buber describes as “the irrefragable genuineness of mutuality.” That is to say that what we have shared together we will always have and can never lose. It is not the past. It simply is. Buber says that it is only through experiencing and understanding each other as “thou’s” rather than “it’s” that we can ever conceptualize of a true community – of “We.”
We have such a community at Wesleyan. The merit of how enthusiastically inclusive our campus is has offered me the flexibility to wear a dress on a nice summer day…and also to be horrible at lacrosse and still have people offer to practice with me. And still Wesleyan has been the target of many unfair jokes in the liberal media. They say we’re hippies, they say we’re artsy and they say that we think that flannel is the soft woven fabric of the Gods…and for many of us they are not wrong. But I would like to assert that the attention we get, even in jest is a recognition that something different and ineffably wonderful happens here. And contrary to the popular television show “30 Rock” – I would like to humbly propose that Yale is the Wesleyan of Central Connecticut.
I had never known what is was like to be dying to go back to a school– or to wake up in my bed at home and miss my bed at Wesleyan – the gloriously spacious twin bed that it is. Wesleyan has meant finding that sense of home even though it took me a little while to get here. It has meant a sense of community that I hope I, and I believe we, will all have and recreate in the world long after we graduate. And it has meant hoping for an opportunity, like this, to say thank you to Wesleyan for it all.