When my dad first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to me, I was six years old and absolutely entranced. For a while after, I climbed to the back of closet most days just in case that day was the day I found a snowy forest instead of a wall. I was extremely focused on getting into Narnia, but I never contemplated what it would be like to leave. I never thought about exiting the wardrobe until I graduated from college.
Undergrad was amazing. I grew so close to people from my major, sorority, clubs, and, of course, my dorm. Secret Lounge was a bizarre group. Freshman year, I remember telling people that we were a group of people who were friends because we all liked dropping things (mainly fruit) from high places. Honestly, that was pretty much it. We came together in pieces. We were just clusters of trios and pairs with a few people linking us together, but, when we arrived at 77 Mass Ave, we arrived in our own snowy forest.
Our undergrad experiences were not a war against the White Witch, but the adventures we had revealed hardships and strengths. Coming from high schools in which many of us were praised for being some of the best, we were all shocked at suddenly feeling dumb and unable to understand everything easily. When another tough exam seemed like the fatal blow, talking and laughing with Secret Lounge was as revitalizing as Lucy’s healing potion. I never had Susan’s horn that could alert others when I was in trouble, but I know I was a knock on a door or Facebook message away from people who would come to my rescue with Gatorade when I was sick, froyo when I was stressed, or a walk across the Harvard bridge when I just needed to get away.
Together, we fought each battle. We found our passions. We got our hearts broken. We watched stupid movies. We debated religion and politics. We made vulgar snow sculptures. We talked about what we wanted out of life. We learned to care for each other. In the weird MIT bubble, it sometimes felt like only us up against all the psets, failed experiments, exams, internship applications, interviews, grad applications, and job applications.
When we threw the last apple and pear off the seventh floor terrace the day after graduation, we tumbled out of the wardrobe. Technically, only four years had passed. Although we had spent twenty minutes the night before getting Alexa to calculate twenty-three times three, we were not the children our parents had moved in in 2014. We were adults, and we were moving on. The next day, we would all be scattered across the country and, within a few months, all over the world. We would never all gather in dining at 5:30pm again. We would not set up an obstacle course of inflatable ducks in a hallway. We would never exist in this world we had built for ourselves quite like this. That world only will exist in our memories.
We have still stayed in each other’s lives and we can still have new adventures when we see each other again, just as Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were still close siblings after leaving Narnia, but we will not all be undergrads at MIT again. The unique experiences we had there cannot be replicated. We will undoubtedly all return to MIT again for reunions, but it might be a bit like banging on the back of the wardrobe. We cannot go back, but that does not discount our time there.
When we tumbled out of the wardrobe, we exited with new insights into who we were as people, what we wanted to do in the world, and how much we cared about each other. None of that is lost. We learned the lessons required for us to continue having adventures and caring about each other, even if it has to be on this side of the wardrobe, or the graduation stage.