As a graduate supposedly bestowed with the opportunity, perspective, influence, decadence and, I suppose, egomaniacal mental flatulence that comes with a degree from the University of Southern California, I find it difficult to typify or cohesively explain my time there. I find it particularly difficult to think of my time as the accumulation of people, places, events, unnamable things, classes and (perhaps) knowledge that so often makes up memory, that intense mash-up ever growing and ever evolving as the dull and subtle is replaced by the sensational and bizarre.

Instead, what I find to be a manageable search for meaning and sense is the subtraction of people, places, events, unnamable things, classes and (perhaps) knowledge – the reasons why something did not happen as it did, why I didn’t do something or someone and what its lack means amidst the swirling technicolor yawn of college life. The holes, indeed, illustrate the whole.

For instance, I didn’t have a car during my freshman year, and my existence was roughly bounded by the smoggy veins of Figueroa, Jefferson, Vermont and Martin Luther King. I saw every IMAX movie at the California Science Center, wandered relentlessly in the Rose Garden and, naturally, saw every possible sporting event at the Coliseum and (shudder) in the tomby recesses of the Memorial Sports Arena. Each weekend I promised myself I’d visit the adjoining Natural History Museum of L.A. County, and when the year came to a close and I hadn’t, I promised myself that I’d do it the fall.

Fall with a car, however, broadened the world beyond a jaunt to the museum, and its massive rotunda and cool marble faded from the mind until the end of my sophomore exams. Next year, I said.

Junior year then offered an internship at NBC-Universal along with a vicarious quest for a third football national championship and the depression that followed on the loathsome feet of Texas’s Vince Young, and a stunning, life-altering experience studying abroad in London.

Senior year was a mad scramble to look forward to the steely future of desks and interviews and black socks while groping backwards towards the comfortable fuzziness of friends well-established and nights well-used. The technicolor yawn, that hyper-real bar packed with familiar faces spinning slowly in a casino with slot machines jangling for us winners and fireworks blazing outside to celebrate another day of never-ending summer, was hopelessly and wonderfully upon me.

Two days after graduation, I was behind the wheel of my car heading east, way east, and I thought of the museum. I’d told myself, with a stern self-loathing, that I’d go before I put on my cap and gown, that I would make the time for this longstanding promise, but I never did. I was going east, not knowing if I would ever be back.

Two weeks ago, I was back in the Rose Garden. I was giving a tour to out-of-towners in my family, describing the Coliseum, the Science Center and, gesturing to the museum’s rotunda, remembered my promise. I remembered the lack, the great empty hole. Reflexively, my entire USC experience unfurled, what I cherished and what I regretted. What I hadn’t done brought back everything I had in a messy, honest rush.

It had been impossible for me to see the whole of my four years, to describe what USC meant to me, because of its intertwining, complex enormity. But by looking where it wasn’t – the museum that in my mind stood empty, capable of holding a million billion uncatalogued treasures – I could at least sense, in an ungainly jumble that doubtless will become more clear and less marvelous with time, what it all meant.

I never took a senior yearbook photo, I never asked Deb out, I never paid Anuj for the editing he did for me, I never stole from the bookstore to settle accounts for their gross indecency of expense, I never joined the Taekwondo team, I never really tried to see if the On-Campus Housing office ever gave Lupe her rightful job back after we petitioned for her pay raise. I never visited the museum. They are all fingerholds to stop the fall from the sheer green face of the past. They are what USC wasn’t for me, and in knowing them, I hope to grasp at the wonder that was.