The Case for an American Monarchy

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The presidential election is over. In a few months, Donald Trump will take the reins from Barack Obama and become the 45th President of the United States.

That was a difficult sentence to type.

But this piece is not about my feelings on the outcome of the election, nor is it about Democrats vs. Republicans. This is a piece trying to make sense of how our nation unites after what has been widely considered the most divisive election in U.S. history.

A possible but all-too-unrealistic option would for the U.S. to extensively amend the Constitution and return to a system abandoned over 200 years ago: a constitutional monarchy.

Before you scoff and write this off as a ridiculous proposal, hear me out. I’m well aware that Americans aren’t exactly clawing for a monarchy of our own. In a 2012 CNN poll, only 13 percent of respondents thought that a royal family of our own would be a good thing.

But this proposal wouldn’t involve hand-picking one family to head our newly reformed state. Instead, we would go with the great-great-great granddaughter of the king we rebelled against all those years ago: Elizabeth II, whose current popularity in the U.S. hovers around 80 percent, according to the same 2012 CNN poll.

What are the arguments in favor of abandoning our divisive republican model of government?

Monarchies tend to be more stable and democratic than republics

With the head of state occupying the throne for life instead of a fixed, limited term, monarchies tend to lend more stability to a nation than does a republic with an elected president, especially when it comes to the transition of power. In addition, the characteristics of the British model of government makes those in power more accountable to the democratic electorate.

In the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, the transition from monarch to monarch is smooth and instantaneous. Upon the death of the sovereign (called the demise of the Crown), her successor automatically becomes king or queen. There is no gap–a sovereign is always on the throne.

In stark contrast, the passing of power from one president to another can be a messy affair. Even in this election cycle, Donald Trump wouldn’t commit to accepting the results of the election if he lost.

Although we’ve avoided this potential disaster, it would have been an unprecedented mess in American constitutional politics. It would have likely precipitated a constitutional crisis, with great uncertainty of what to do in resolving whatever dispute that had arisen. This doesn’t happen in constitutional monarchies with well-established rules of succession–once the monarch dies or abdicates, the throne passes to the next in line.

In addition to the stable transfer of power between heads of state, constitutional monarchy can lead to more democratic governments.

A 2009 study by Oxford political scientists revealed that government is often more democratically accountable in constitutional monarchies than in republics (abstract here; article on the study here).

The study revealed that monarchies have higher incidences of events indicating democratic accountability: more early elections, less cabinet-shuffling.

In the British model of government, prime ministers are appointed by The Queen and serve as long as they command confidence of the lower house of Parliament. A quick summary of how the process works: General elections are held to choose members of the House of Commons, which is similar to our House of Representatives. The leader of the party which wins a majority of the seats is appointed prime minister, and can serve as long they have a majority of seats. (Things can get a bit tricky when no party wins a majority)

The prime minister forms a government from within the House of Commons by nominating cabinet ministers and other senior government functionaries. The government may be defeated on a successful motion of no confidence, which triggers the automatic resignation of the prime minister and, if a new government cannot be formed within two weeks, an early election.

The result is that these governments must be accountable to themselves and, ultimately, the electorate. Government accountability is a huge problem in the U.S., with only one in five Americans trusting the government. Additionally, members of Congress are much less accountable than British MPs because they aren’t faced with the possibility of early reelection bids–congressional terms are fixed by the Constitution and elections are scheduled on a fixed-term basis by federal law. The prospect of having to stand for election as a result of unpopular or dangerous lawmaking might well lead to increased accountability to the electorate on the part of members of Congress.

An apolitical monarch is a more popular, unifying head of state

Constitutional monarchs are, either by convention or by law, apolitical. The Queen never inserts herself into political controversies. She does not vote in elections. When she does exercise political power (such as dissolving the legislature or appointing a prime minister) she always does so either at the behest of her ministers or by constitutional convention.

As a result of a constitutional monarch’s never dirtying herself with politics, she becomes a national symbol everyone in the country can rally around. During WWII, George VI became a living symbol of British perseverance and unity, even as German bombs rained down on London.

“But presidents can serve as rallying symbols during times of crises, too!”

While absolutely true, the political nature of the American president means that such unity and popularity is often short-lived. George W. Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed to 90 percent in the aftermath of 9/11. By the time he left office, that number had sunk to around 35 percent.

Even now, the media are gobsmacked to find President Obama’s popularity at 56 percent as his second term is coming to an end. Such a high approval rating at this point in a president’s term has only been eclipsed once in modern presidential history–by Bill Clinton in 2000.

In contrast, support for the monarchy in the United Kingdom remains very high. A 2012 poll found that 68 percent of Britons thought the monarchy was good for the country. Only nine percent thought it bad, and 17 percent had no opinion. A poll from April of this year saw an increase in support, with 75 percent saying the monarchy has an important role in the future of Britain.

HM The Queen certainly hasn’t been immune to criticism and dips in popularity–as scandal embroiled the Royal Family during the 90s, republican sentiment in the United Kingdom increased.

But even as the scandals pass and republicanism sporadically spikes, The Queen and the monarchy as an institution remain extremely popular. This consistently strong support would be unheard of in our system, where the president is a political figure and nearly half the country will disapprove at any given moment.

An American Queen would heal the divisiveness of presidential politics by serving as a national symbol of pride and a source of unity for all Americans, regardless of political stripe, to identify with in times of crisis and in celebration.

Monarchy can better for the economy

Fairly recent evidence suggests that constitutional monarchy is good for business and the economy as a whole.

A 2007 Dutch study indicates that the presence of a royal family accounts for about one percent of additional growth in the national GDP. In 2006, this “monarchy bonus” added between four and five billion euros to the Netherlands’ GDP.

In the United Kingdom, much ado has been made about the finances of the Royal Family, who cost the government about £35.7 million per year.

While the cost seems unjustifiably high for a hereditary head of state and her family, for every pound spent on the monarchy, the British economy receives about £14 in return as a result of tourism alone.

While the U.S. won’t likely see this magnitude of return (for reasons discussed later), even distant royals can provide an economic boost. In September, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Victoria, Australia–another country where Elizabeth II is head of state. Royal visits can have huge positive effects on the local economy, mostly via the flocks of tourists who come to get a glimpse of the royals in person.

What system do you propose?

The new federal government

I propose a model of federal government based on that of the United Kingdom and currently practiced in the Commonwealth realms, the former Dominions of the British Empire which have retained Elizabeth II as head of state.

Congress would be reformed into an American parliament, with a dominant lower house in the House of Representatives and a chamber of “sober second thought” in the Senate. The House would dominate the legislative process, producing prime ministers and forming governments.

The Senate would act mainly as a revising chamber, scrutinizing and revising legislation. In an ideal model, it would be modeled after the Canadian Senate, in which members are appointed on recommendation of the prime minister and can serve until the age of 75. A nonpartisan commission would recommend appointments not based on politics, but instead on the merits and accomplishments of extraordinary Americans.

The presidency would be abolished, with executive departments and functions being headed by ministers appointed from the House of Representatives. The Queen takes the role of head of state.

But wait! The Queen mainly resides in the UK–who will carry out her duties while she’s away?

Thankfully, this question was answered over 100 years ago. A governor-general, appointed by The Queen on recommendation of the prime minister, would be Her Majesty’s representative, carrying out her official and ceremonial duties in her absence. This position is, like the monarchy itself, strictly apolitical and bound by constitutional convention and law. The governor-general serves as a de facto head of state, since The Queen would be gone from the U.S. far more than she would be present. Most of the recent governors-general of Canada and Australia have been highly respected countrymen representing all walks of life, including authors, professors, journalists, and military officers.

With respect to the federal judiciary, it would remain largely unchanged–the only major difference is that judges and justices would be appointed by The Queen (really the governor-general) on recommendation of the prime minister. To solve the potential problem of partisanship in judicial appointments, a nonpartisan commission would be formed to recommend qualified appointees to the prime minister, who would be bound to act accordingly.

The state governments

With respect to the states, government would be modeled on the federal system, but operate on a smaller scale and with some different nomenclature.

Legislatures could remain bicameral or abolish their upper houses to become unicameral (Canadian provincial legislatures are all unicameral), with the sole house retaining the powers of the lower house in this model.

Instead of a prime minister, a premier is appointed as head of the state government and exercises the powers of the prime minister at the state level.

The Queen’s representative in each state is the lieutenant governor, who exercises her powers in the state during periods of absence. As with the governor-general, the lieutenant governor remains strictly apolitical and is a noteworthy individual from that state, appointed on recommendation of the state’s premier.

How would we implement this system?

It would be extremely difficult to implement this system while preserving our current Constitution. Such extraordinary change would require massive changes to the document, such as the near-total repeal of Article II, which outlines the presidency.

Yes, we’d likely have to start from scratch. Fortunately, other countries with these systems have done much of the heavy lifting when it comes to crafting constitutions. The Constitution of Australia outlines such a system, and is a unified document containing most of the applicable constitutional provisions.

Other legislative enactments would likely be necessary, such as settling the line of succession or attempting to better define the royal prerogative. It would be an immense process, but one that might well be worth it given the long-term benefits of this system.

How likely are we to implement this system?

We aren’t likely to. Despite The Queen and the Royal Family being very popular in the U.S., support for a monarchy of our own remains low.

That being said, if there’s any time to make the case for constitutional monarchy in America, it’s now. Gallup polls indicate that confidence in American institutions is historically low, with only 36 percent confidence in the presidency and the Supreme Court, and a dismal 9 percent confidence in Congress.

Distrust and lack of confidence in the fundamental institutions of the Republic could leave some Americans looking for other options when it comes to government.

This piece is by no means an exhaustive thesis on the pros and cons of our current system and the proposal I advance. But extraordinary political times call for extraordinary proposals, and this has been an interesting thought experiment of how we could reform our government for the better and restore national unity.

What do you think?

No, Millennials are Not the “Entitled Generation”

Last night, I was perusing the comments section of an article about the New Hampshire primaries, won handily by Sen. Bernie Sanders. One commenter lashed out against his supporters (of which Millennials are a significant portion), saying that our generation is the “Entitlement Generation,” waiting with hands out for all kinds of “free stuff” from the government.

It’s a talking point that my generation has heard over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Not only is it incredibly insulting, it’s patently false.

This is not a piece about Bernie vs. Hillary. That is a debate for another day and another piece. Nor is this a plug for Bernie’s policy proposals.

No, this is instead a piece about the problematic labelling of Millennials as a generation of entitled people, eagerly awaiting a government handout and too lazy to put in the work necessary to succeed in the contemporary American economy. To disparage an entire generation in this manner fails to acknowledge reality, including the host of economic and social issues that has led to our generation being branded as such.

First, some history. Fifty years ago, it was widely accepted (indeed, it was reality) that a high school diploma and strong work ethic were the only prerequisites to accessing the American Dream, namely a good paying job, a decent home, transportation, and other necessities and luxuries that produced a robust middle class and gave Americans some of the highest standards of living in the world. With a high school diploma, one could often find a good-paying job, with access to benefits, pensions, and other things that my grandparents’ generation took for granted as hallmarks of American labor. Successful completion of public schooling was the only education required.

A few decades later, however, educational requirements increased and some form of college was necessary to achieve success. My parents’ generation, while not earning degrees at the same rate as do Millennials, began to attend two- and four-year schools with increasing frequency. Earning a degree all on one’s own was a very possible proposition.

My Dad, of whom I am extremely proud and grateful for, was able to pay his own way through school by working a minimum wage job. It was hard work, but it was possible because the minimum wage was sufficiently high to allow him to pay tuition, and tuition was low enough that working such a job to pay for school was possible. Had minimum wage been as stagnant then as it was now, and had tuition been as exorbitantly high then as it is now, this might not have been possible.

Of course, his strong work ethic (which has served as my inspiration as I pursue my own career dreams) was the ultimate factor that made his success possible. I do not mean to say that he only got where he is because college was affordable and his wage was able to pay for his education.

But rising costs of higher education and stagnant wages, coupled with a host of other societal factors, means that my Dad’s story is one that is increasingly rare in contemporary America.

Millennials grew up in a culture very different from that of their parents or grandparents. We grew up in a culture obsessed with consumerism, fixated on the acquisition of wealth, and disdainful of the poor. We grew up in a world where the only guarantee of a good paying job meant getting a four-year degree, and the economic situation of the past nine years has meant that even a four-year degree is no guarantee of success.

We have been told that we are a generation of coddled, lazy, entitled people. And widespread support of a presidential candidate who promises “free stuff” might, on its face, support that assertion.

But make no mistake: Millennials do not want “free stuff,” we want a fairer society that isn’t rigged against us. We want a society where, if you are willing to work, you will get ahead.

To simply write off an entire generation who wants to create such a society as “lazy” and “entitled” is a slap in the face to those who have worked incredibly hard–hard work that isn’t even guaranteed to pay off and offer return on investment.

We are a generation that feels disillusioned because we have seen what it takes to be successful from our parents and grandparents. But our parents’ and grandparents’ generation has taken an active part in creating the current structure, which mandates the possession of a four-year degree (often at extraordinary cost and necessitating the encumbrance of massive amounts of student loan debt), a degree which fails to secure the promise of a job with decent wages, if a job in the degree field at all.

It really sucks to be written off as lazy and entitled when the very generation deriding us as such created the current state of affairs. I’m reminded of the parent who laments that his child is spoiled, when the parent continues to give the child whatever they want. It seems to me incredibly hypocritical for these generations to have created this culture to then turn around and say, “Well, your generation is the worst ever and incredibly lazy. Just work harder and you’ll be fine!”

Perhaps forty years ago the “work harder” mantra would have been sage advice. But now, Millennials are putting in the hard work we’ve been told is necessary for success without seeing the same levels of success as our forebears. Therein lies the incredible frustration (and this is why a candidate like Bernie Sanders is so popular with our generation): all our lives, we’ve been given the supposed recipe for getting a good education, a good job, and living a good life. But the process is much worse than we were led to believe.

Who in a developed country like the United States should have to take out a mortgage to get a college education? Who should have to see their wages remain stagnant? Who should have to invest in higher education, only to enter a job market not fully prepared to accept them?

And when these issues are raised, they’re brushed off. No, we can’t have tuition-free public universities because it costs too much. Okay, that’s a fair point. No, we can’t reduce interest rates on federal student loans. That makes less sense, but okay. No, we can’t increase Pell Grants and other programs that make college more affordable for lower-income students. You mean these same students you pushed towards college because it offered the promise of a better life?

Wow. The entire system seems to be a vicious cycle of “Here’s how to get ahead, but here are all the things that suck about the process of getting ahead” and “Oh, you want us to alleviate all the things that suck about the process of getting ahead? Ha! Good luck with that one!”

I have encountered an extraordinary number of decent, hardworking people in my generation (in my experience, this is definitely the rule rather than the exception). People who put in the time and work necessary to succeed in college, and who also took on a considerable amount of debt in the process. All for the “promise” of a good career and good life. And I have seen these same people stuck in jobs their degree did not pay them for, earning wages no college graduate should be earning given their hard work and investment, and incredibly displeased with the track of their professional lives.

These are issues that need timely solutions and, of course, there are no easy answers. But make no mistake, they will need solving if the Millennials and those who come after us are to have any shot at a good middle class life.

Some ideas are bold. Tuition-free public college and single-payer health care are ideas a good portion of America finds incredibly uncomfortable (pay no mind to the fact that many other developed countries figured this out decades ago). And when you examine our generation and our disillusionment with the ways of the establishment, you can call us idealistic, naïve, radical, or any permutation of those things. But please, don’t call us entitled for wanting a better shot at getting ahead.

 

It’s Been 1L of a Year

To Section Two–thank you for making this school year a great one.

Nine months ago, I sat in the car as my parents and I made the 600 mile trip from Upstate New York to my new (temporary) home in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. Law school began in just a few weeks, I was about to meet a whole new set of people, and I was going to be living in an area to which I’d had little prior exposure. The thought of having to go through this transition–this process of establishing a new life and making new friends–terrified me. What if I didn’t fit in with my new colleagues? What if I didn’t fit in with the Southerners?

This was so much different than my undergraduate experience, where I was only 75 miles from home and the drive was a mere hour-and-a-half. All of my family lived within a two-hour drive of Syracuse, and for all intents and purposes I was home there. Marching band and other activities had made it so easy and natural to make friends. I wasn’t so sure this move to North Carolina was going to turn out as well as Syracuse had. I’d made the decision to attend Wake Forest partly based on the new experiences it had to offer, so part of me said that I was just going to have to bite the bullet and give it my best shot.

Fast-forwarding to the present, I must contrast these early-semester nerves with where I am today in my law school experience. After my first year of law school, I can truly tell you that my fears and apprehensions were absolutely alleviated within the first month or so of the school year. It is amazing at how quickly one can adapt into a new environment and find that it feels more like home than you ever could have imagined.

In the nine months I have been here, I have met some of the funniest, kindest, intelligent, and all-around wonderful people here at Wake Forest. I had the great fortune of being placed into a section of some of the most laid-back, awesome people I could have ever hoped to meet–people that I have laughed with, hiked with, drank beer with, stressed over exams with. In the nine months I have been here, I have met people I know will be lifelong friends–men and women I will keep in contact with long after we are hooded, pass the bar, and enter into practice. People I can’t really picture life without. Our friendship circle has become a tight-knit support system that picks each other up when we’re down and knows how to have a proper celebration when the circumstances so warrant. And that’s exactly the group I needed to find here in law school–little did I know on that drive down here that I didn’t even need to search to find exactly what I was looking for. I reflect on this past year knowing that I both made the right choice in law schools and that I would not have been this content anywhere else.

I’ve also learned a lot–a lot–about the law these past nine months. More than I ever would have thought possible. The mind can really absorb a lot of information. And the amazing thing is that as much as I know now, I have two full years to go. But as much as I loved this year academically–I had great professors who made classes interesting–I’m looking forward to next year even more with its customized schedule (no Friday classes!) and courses that sound intensely interesting (such as Law and Medicine, Jurisprudence, and Pre-trial Practice and Procedure). A whole new year of challenges and adventures lies ahead, and I know I’m ready for it.

There’s also something to be said for adapting to Southern living. Just as with the law school community and new friendship circles, growing comfortable with life in North Carolina happened rather quickly. Winston-Salem is a great little city with quite a bit to offer in terms of recreational activities and nightlife. And besides that, I have adjusted to the more relaxed pace of Southern life, I’ve caught myself using “y’all” on way more than one occasion, and have I mentioned how awesome the climate is down here? Not only has it been well into the 70s (and sometimes 80s) for the past month-and-a-half, but the winter–oh, the winter! We saw probably eight total inches of snow spread over three separate days, and school was cancelled every single weekday we had snow. After spending four years in the Great White North that is Syracuse, New York–trudging through class through a foot of snow and biting, freezing winds without delays or closings–I figure that I have more than earned this. And after a winter spend not hating the climate every time I ventured outside, I could definitely get used to it. Of course I haven’t lost my Northeastern identity, but it has become distinctively blended these past nine months.

As much as I have been loving this North Carolina lifestyle, though, I am really looking forward to coming home and spending time with family and friends. I miss my parents. I miss my sister and her family. I miss my friends back in the Northeast. A summer of work at my internship and relaxation at the lake lies ahead, and it could not get here soon enough. In just a few short days, I begin my 600 mile journey back home to New York, and I am so excited.

To Section Two–I’m already looking forward to being reunited with you all in August; and to friends and family back home–I cannot wait to see you all.

After a successful school year, I’m coming home.

Life as a Deacon and Syracuse Heartache

Today marks two months since I left my home in New York to begin the new and exciting adventure that has been my 1L year at Wake Forest Law thus far. It was not an easy move–I was only an hour and a half from home during my undergraduate years, and the thought of moving almost six hundred miles away frankly sort of terrified me. This is a place quite different from where I’d grown up, in terms of culture, geography, and even language. I never had any good faith reservations about attending law school in the South, but ripping up anyone from their roots and transplanting them into a completely different climate is never an easy proposition.

Fortunately for me, these past two months have been nothing short of awesome. I had the great fortune to be placed into a section of some of the brightest, funniest, and all-around great people I could have hoped to meet and befriend at Wake Forest (1st is the worst, 2nd is the best, something something hairy chest…). I have made friends that I know will likely last the rest of life, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

Culturally speaking, I’ve started to “assimilate,” if that’s the right word for it. I’ve caught myself using “y’all” without realizing it and calling adults “sir” and “ma’am.” I’ve even taught myself how to make fried chicken and gravy (not that difficult, but I’m still proud). Now all I need to do is forget how to use a turn signal, especially when merging into five lanes of traffic on I-40 at 75 miles per hour. Then I’ll be more of an authentic Southerner, I think.

Of course, school dominates every single aspect of my life, and it will continue to do so until sweet freedom (sort of…not really) comes in May 2017. I can safely say that I have learned more about the law these last seven weeks of school than I ever could have imagined I would learn about the law to this point. And that’s just in the first seven weeks. Of my first semester. Of my first year. I can talk about minimum contacts such that traditional concepts of fair play and substantial justice are not offended. I call tell you when “IT’S A TORT!!!!!” And I can tell you with absolute certainly that Justice Brennan loved personal jurisdiction and would be able to find it in literally every case he heard arguments for. And yet, as much as I’ve learned so far, I simultaneously know nothing at all.

But as much as I’m loving life down here in North Carolina, and as busy as school keeps me, I find myself missing Syracuse terribly. I miss my friends. I miss marching band. I miss hearing the Crouse Chimes ringing the Alma Mater and dealing with AirOrangeX insisting that I can’t have Internet access (okay, maybe not so much on that last one). The cruelty of higher education is that it mixes a bunch of people from all over and all walks of life together, allows them to form close and intense friendships, and then rends those friendships asunder when the time comes for commencement.

Fortunately, my Syracuse heartache will be remedied tomorrow, when I fly back to the Salt City for my first homecoming as an alumnus. I cannot wait to reconnect with my friends, see my parents again, take in campus once more, and watch as the Florida State Seminoles absolutely dismember our football team (seriously, SU Athletics? You couldn’t schedule homecoming for a weekend when a win is at least plausible?). But as rough as the game will be, and as many beers I am likely to consume as a result of it, I could not be more excited for this much-anticipated, if not brief, reunion. I have been looking forward to this day since the moment I left campus this past May, and that it is finally here has me shaking in mind-numbing anticipation for going to the Charlotte airport tomorrow. My bags are packed and my boarding passes are printed. I’m coming home, Syracuse.

The Next Chapter

I’m sitting in the car as I write this, quite literally surrounded by the familiar things that will tomorrow fill my new apartment and make it home.

As you may have read on this blog a few months ago, the Orange chapter of my life has come to a bittersweet close (perhaps with more emphasis on the “bitter” than the “sweet”) and, after a very relaxing summer, a new one is beginning.

I begin orientation at the Wake Forest University School of Law on August 15, and my mind is currently experiencing a deafening cacophony of different emotions, ranging from excitement to nervousness; from joy to sheer terror. It amazes me how the once-plodding pace of time (as it seemed to go about a decade ago) has now accelerated to the point where an entire summer passes in what seems like mere days.

Law school is what I’ve been building up to since my senior year of high school, when I finally decided that’s what I really wanted to do with my life. It’s been the mantra that kept me going through the tough times at SU (and there were tough times). It’s what sustained me through late-night paper-writing sessions (pretend you didn’t read that, Drs. Howard and Berry) and over cramming sessions for blue book exams.

Now that it’s really happening, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s actually happening. And though I cannot wait to see what this next stage of life has in store, I also know great challenges lie ahead.

I’m moving to a region where I’ll be seen as an outsider (a Yankee, I’ve been told) and I’ll be working harder than I’ve ever worked before. Many of the fun things to which I have grown accustomed will have to fall by the wayside—at least in part—but at least I’ll develop phenomenal time budgeting skills.

Yes, there’ll be ups and downs these next three years, and I can only hope the sum of my positive experiences far outweighs the negative ones when my time at Wake Forest comes to an end. Based on the emails I’ve gotten from professors and conversations I’ve had with future classmates, I’d say I’m already off to a great start.

For now, it’s time to get down to North Carolina, get settled, and make new friends before the hectic pace of the new semester sets in. I will try my best to keep you, my readers, updated on school and life as the time passes.

Go Orange and Go Deacs.

Closing the Orange Chapter

I’m in the car as I write this, surrounded by the familiar belongings that made my apartment home these past two years.

I spent the better part of the morning packing. It was tedious work, and my back has been in protest most of the afternoon (I’m an old man, I know).

My emotions had been neutral the entire day as I put things in bins, bags, boxes. The work was too frenzied and tiring for me to have any feelings about it. They remained neutral as we filled up our van (and I mean filled our van) with the things I’ve accumulated the past two years of school.

I began to have inklings of sadness when I surveyed the emptiness filling my apartment after we’d finished moving everything out. So many great memories were made there. I know these memories will forever dwell in my mind, but leaving the place behind is always hard.

As we drove away from campus and I surveyed the beautiful old buildings for the last time for some months, I grew sadder. These past four years, I made wonderful memories on the Quad, in writing classes in HBC, at houses on Livingston, Euclid, and Sumner. I’ll be forever fond of 301 Winding Ridge South and the front porch of 726.

But these are just places, of course. They’re material. What made them truly special were the people who called them home.

I met wonderful people throughout my time at Syracuse. Really wonderful people. People who will be in my wedding, who my kids will grow up hearing stories about, and who will be lifelong friends. I developed a fantastic circle of friends, especially this year.

Leaving these people behind and watching them go start their lives around the country is difficult. So difficult.

No more Tuesday night trips to Faegan’s. No more spontaneous golf outings. No more late-night calzones.

But the friendships will endure. Although hundreds of miles might lie between us, friendship doesn’t count those miles. It counts the memories.

I can’t be all sad, though. This fall, I’m beginning law school at Wake Forest University, and with that comes new challenges, opportunities, and memories. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

But closing a chapter of your life is always hard, especially when that chapter has been so amazing. I look forward to coming back to campus from time to time, and to spend time with the people who made that place so amazing.

It’s not going to be easy, but I know everything is going to be okay. I look back on these past four years with fondness, and to the future with anticipation.

Go Orange.

To You, Grandma

164410_1762467225639_5271211_nThis is for you, Grandma.

It’s been four years, but it hasn’t gotten any easier. Four long years since I’ve heard your laugh, gotten one of your warm hugs, and had one of those chocolate cookies you used to keep in the refrigerator. I used to think it was so weird you kept them there, but you were right–they really are better that way. It’s the little things like that I miss most.

I miss you so much. They say it gets easier with time, and I suppose it does, but time hasn’t yet fully healed these wounds. Sometimes I bleed. And sometimes you’ll pop into my head for no reason at all. Maybe that’s your spirit’s way of reaching out–of trying to connect with me. And I’ll think back to that awful night when we lost you, and the pain becomes real all over again. The tears flow. I look up. I miss you, I whisper. I’d give anything to see you again, even for just a little while.

A few weeks ago, I dreamt about you. It wasn’t much of a dream–I was back visiting Castle Gardens. Why? I don’t know. Probably because that’s where you spent the last four years of your life and where some of my last memories with you were made. I should be grateful we even had your last four years, since we almost lost you twice before. I rounded the corner and there you were, as if nothing had changed. This can’t be real, I thought. It felt too real. We didn’t say anything–just hugged. Cried a little. Mourning the time we’ve been deprived of these past four years. And then I woke up, my pillowcase wetted with tears and the sensation of your warm embrace still with me. Maybe it was real.

My birthday is in three days. I’m turning twenty-two–can you believe it? I was only seventeen when you left us. You were right. Time really does fly. But it’s going to be hard for me. For seventeen years, you called me on my birthday. I got to hear your voice. Hear your love. And for four years, I’ve missed that. I’m left only to imagine what you would be saying if you were still here. You’d probably ask about school. How my friends were doing. Where I’m going for dinner tonight. You’d tell me you love me and miss me.

And I know those words to be true. Wherever you are now–in heaven, or out there somewhere in this great Universe of ours–I know you still love me, and I know you miss me as much as I miss you. (You’ll never admit it, but I know I was your favorite.) You miss our talks about life. About how we both hate autumn because it represents death. About how we both really hate driving. You miss how we’d watch The Price is Right when I came to visit–I know the only reason we watched it is because you loved Bob Barker. But I didn’t mind. And how we’d laugh at the naiveté of some of the contestants. You miss being able to make ridiculous jokes and laugh ourselves to tears.

It has gotten better these last four years. I remember when it’d only been a year since we lost you–how inconsolable I’d be. An absolute mess. Those nights when I’d look up to the sky and cry until my tear ducts said, “No more.” But that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. That doesn’t mean I won’t shed a few tears on Monday. Waiting for a phone call I know will never come.

I hope that some day, somehow, we’ll be reunited at last. That I’ll get to give you the biggest hug ever, cry, and tell you how much I’ve missed you. That I’ll get to catch you up on life after you were gone.

But until then, life goes on. I cling to these tear-stained memories and make do with what my mind remembers–it’s the best I can do.

I know you’re out there somewhere, and I hope I make you proud.

Love you, Grandma.