Haydil Henriquez '14 - Last Collection
Good evening, my fellow Swarthmore students, faculty, staff, families, and friends. My name is Haydil Henriquez, and I have no idea why I am up here today. I guess we are all here to tell a story. I have no idea who's, for the mirages of our lives resemble one another in remarkable way, and all I can hope for is that this story continues.
You will find most of your jubilance at Swarthmore a blur. We began this journey, some of us vowing to save orientation candles for this very moment, to re-light the beginning with the end. What they don't tell you at orientation is that we will not remember, or cherish, or even live in every moment. So like the dutiful Swatties we are, we live by intensity. Try to find value in every sentence in every book assigned for our honors seminar. Until we're worn thin, our fiery existence is all we know. The fire behind discovery has led us to all the answers we'd never seek, until we overburden ourselves with the responsibility of encouraging basic civility and respect. But the act of being human is often disremembered, unacknowledged, wrongfully so, for understanding our existence as connected to other beings, at time in solitary ways, confirms Plato's thoughts, "All I know is I know nothing." Rachell Morillo said, "All we can do as citizens of humanity is exist in a specific time and place, and futilely try to draw meaning from it - all of it the profound, the meaningful, and the meaningless."
There are days, times, you wake to see vacancy, to find spaces to fill, you will try to find meaningfulness, wherever you stand, Swarthmore has taught us well, you become the person you've never imagined you'd be. There are times we don't find meaning. There will be days where all you will find is your own heavy air. Circulating with the lethargic heat. You will dig in your own skin to understand the world. You will find bareness. You will find nothing but skin. On those days, you are not supposed to discover the world. There is a thirst for knowledge that in excess can lead to a different kind of permanent dehydration. That burns us out. We've lived it here. We have found our own battles, our worlds, our fires, hence not before countless futile attempts. To find silver in one shot is a gold prospector's subsequent resort.
There are days you wake to see vacancy, to find spaces to fill. On some of those days, you will find what you long for. And you'll live, boy, you'll live to see a different kind of existence.
There are places. Places for ourselves. Places of time we occupy. Places. Places that change and pass. If you forget about time, we can say this moment is a place. A place in memory. Four years ago, we each held a candle to commemorate beginnings, there are some places seldom forgotten.
There are places we don't want to remember.
As a child, I gravitated towards the small bridge connecting my tiny town in the Dominican Republic to what I called the mainland, the road leading back to the airport, to New York. Lost under the frayed gray pillars, with the drying green river tickling bare toes, solitude lingers even in places you feel most at home. Last May, I made a home under that bridge in Los Arroyos de Navas, mourning the loss of my father - the bridge was my salvation. Although the drought of my haven symbolized a dry spell, my father's departure to another world, another heaven, taught me how to live. How to take a breath with consciousness and appreciation.
When you are at your highest, the river is bound to stream down at full force. Ancient civilizations built bridges, not only for land-to-land connection, but also for salvation. For when the everlasting river, below grey skies, bellows like hunger, thundering under feet's soles, covering the very man-made bridges intended for connection, impeding travel from one end to the other, we realize we are nothing but human. And our reach is limited by flesh. There are rivers, much stronger than our own currents, and at times those bridges we damn for overflowing with rainwater streams, allow us to take a breath. Inhale the act of existing within the moment, and the beauty of what is out of our control.
To understand the meaning of understanding and to find life in that meaning, we must first derail from what we already know. When you are at your highest the growing river is bound to come down at full force, and when you are your lowest, the drought will show the value of those man made connections, the dilapidation of your own construction and the thirst for solitude along salvation. There is life in unexpected places. There is meaning in every setback, in every accomplishment, in every step. We can't possibly remember it all, but we are Swatties, so we'll sure as hell try.
I imagine you did not finish everything on your bucket list. We'll learn to keep them short next time. The Crum Regatta was mine. Modeled after Where the Wild Things Are, we made a dinner table boat, with a Renato's pizza paddle oar, that could barely float, but all I yearned for was an excuse to get in the water. Jumping into the Crum Creek itself was a refreshing victory; there we were spirited and alive.
The pirate ship boat, the only creation that did float, threw purple yarn to ensnare any pursuers, oh so we thought. It wrapped tightly around A Wild Thing's ankle, trapping her, incapacitating her. She couldn't move. She was so brave. She called out to me - save me save me. As usual, I thought she was just being lazy, as I pushed the other Wild Thing, jeopardizing our victory. But what the purple yarn did was show us how to slow down, how to cruise the creek and not worry about the finish line. Shoot, we cruised so much, we floated for minutes near the finish line, bathing ourselves like wild things, until Martin Warner shouted, "Hey, You haven't crossed the finish line." Senioritis hit us early in the fall.
In One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes, when Aureliano was deciphering the parchments, which held both the future, and the past of Macondo, a place forgotten by time and death, secluded by an impenetrable marsh from the rest of an industrializing country, a place defined by its being wrapped in solitude... "Then the wind began, warm, insipient, full of voices from the past, the murmurs of ancient geraniums, sighs of disenchantment that preceded the most tenacious nostalgia." The winds of change, or what others would refer to as, the winds of nostalgia, are ever-present, take some time to hear it here, in this place now, and two days from now.
"Before reaching the final line however [Aureliano] already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. "
We take nothing with us, but before we finish our respective stories, we can bask on this collective solitude, of this unrepeatable place within our lives. Of the places, we are unwilling to exile from our memory.