13 May 2013

Graduation and the Future...

This post is brought to you by a college graduate! Don't worry: I can hardly believe it either.
Yesterday, Sunday the 12th of May, dawned bright and nearly two hours later than the early hour I wanted to get up from a text message from my sister telling me my family would be there in an hour and a half for my graduation. This last weekend had been busy with our craziest days at work, and this last week had been busy with last minute school work and this last bunch of weeks had been busy with travel, flip-flopping emotions and panic over having no idea what I was doing as so much was happening at once. But that morning I woke up calmly, did my makeup and went to buy breakfast as an impromptu mother's day present for my mom when she would arrive. (I also gave a little happy mother's day shout out to the BVM that morning. Obviously the most awesome of all mothers, who is the only one capable of beating my own mom for first place.)

Entering the Hall; my many family members on cell phones; a panorama from my seat;
my friend L found me; S and I adjusting our caps with the rear camera of my phone as a mirror.

It was surprising, even as we filled the Hall in which I would become a graduate, seeing all the other families and blue-clad students, how little I felt like I was actually graduating. It couldn't possibly be happening yet (which does make sense in a way, since I had only been at university for three years: it's doable, but the constant overloads of courses can be killer). I said goodbye to my family, noting in my head that I would be different in kind of a major way once I met with them again, and went to save some seats for my friends. One of my Catholic friends, L, tracked me down and my coworker, S, arrived shortly after and we took pictures together as the band played a Les Mis collection and time ticked closer.

The three of us had fun pointing out the misspellings on the captioned screens showing the speakers (president of the university, Commencement speaker, etc.) and joked around about how useless our studies potentially were. I think a lot of that conversation covered up what was really happening in my head, but it became a reality when the Commencement speaker got up. After his little autobiography and some jokes, he began closing his speech with some seriousness. One of the things that hit me most was the ending: "Some of you will do great things that the world will notice and some of you will do great things that the world doesn't notice, but that will have a lasting effect. You will be creators."

"Pretty accurate," I thought, as I considered my aspirations to be a mother and my stomach felt all tingly with anticipation. Those words were so apt for my future. I don't have a lucrative career or fancy internship or high-ranking graduate school lined up. At one point in my college career, I wanted those things, or at least the last thing, very much for post-grad. I had mad respect for the doctorates that were called up part-way through the ceremony to receive these giant sashes. But that wasn't on my radar anymore. What I really want now is a family life, and the speaker's conclusion helped me realize that, though that plan is greatly unconsidered by college graduates in favor of other plans, it is no less important than the popular plans.

Shortly after, each college was called to stand and be proclaimed "graduated" by the president of the university. Since the colleges were called up by chronological order (oldest college first), my college, the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences, rose first. Thunderous applause filled the Hall as we stood and, as I thought of my family in the stands, it began to feel real. When the president bestowed upon us all the responsibilities of our courses of study (yada yada, right? Though, now I wish I could remember the exact words), I kind of wished it was like a Sacrament of initiation which would mark a change in me. It was a change anyway, so still cool, but there was my Catholicism in the middle of cheers and blue caps.

My super awesome fantastic mother who kept her cool.
This is probably one of my favorite pictures of us now.

After each college was called to stand, "be graduated" and sit, one of the university's chancellor asked all mothers to stand and be recognized, as it was mother's day (and I wondered when I would be in that group too). I looked back to my family in the stands and saw my mom (a bit reluctantly) stand and the proud admiration I had for her overflowed until the threat of tears made me look away. Everyone in the stands was invited to stand and was congratulated for all their roles in their student's schooling. Finally all students stood and we were invited to move our tassels to the left and declared the Class of 2013. My tassel was a bit stubborn, but L and S helped me with it and then our arms were around each other and we were swaying to the school song and everything was actually finally really real in my crazy brain: I was a college graduate. Holy. Crap.

We all broke away as we were dismissed and I met up with my family, weaving through people to get to my mom first. It is tradition to present your graduation stole to someone who has greatly supported you through college and I later bequeathed it to her. She has wanted me to go to college since I was a tiny kid (and probably before I can remember) and she has helped me the best she can in every way to get me to this point. I never would have graduated without her help and she deserves a thousand graduation stoles for her support. (When I was still with my friend L and my stole was giving me problems with staying on properly, I joked that I felt like a priest. To which he replied, "Wymyn priests...." Really though. Mad props to priests who manage to keep all their priestly clothing all nice and ordered. Wearing a gown was probably the closest I'll ever get in similarity to your garb and it's a little silly to keep track of sometimes.)

The president conferring upon us the awesomeness of our degrees; the recessional of the Class of 2013;
me with my aunt and uncle; me with my immediate family; me making a silly face and battling the crazy wind.

After, I did lots of feasting (mac and cheese, doughnuts, fries, ice cream; pretty much the worst foods for you and some of my most favorites) and hanging out with my family before they left and I went to Mass. During the homily, father talked about living our Catholic faith in every environment, whether that was at work or at school or other places and I realized I wouldn't be going to school next year. There would be no more "Oh, my occupation is student." or "I got to such-and-such school." or "X is my major." As "commencement" indicates, I will be starting a new chapter in my life. I'll be a "real adult" with different responsibilities and university will just be a mark of my credentials and not my day in, day out experience. It feels very strange and unknown now, but I'm looking forward to doing something new with my life.

Not all of it will be new: I will still blog and I'll be on campus for the next few months until my lease is up working and reading. I will still go to Mass and bake and take walks and learn about things that interest me. But now my time will be freed for a full-time job (hopefully something I will enjoy) and I can spend more time planning a wedding and thinking about my potential future as a homeschooling mother (so I guess I'm not completely off the hook with school, haha). I can entertain new hobbies that I haven't had time for, like writing fiction and painting and experimenting with cooking. I want to spend more time with family and start doing things I think of as adult things: getting people's addresses, writing letters, copying my great grandmother's recipes down into a book, organizing my belongings, just experiencing life with people.

I went to work later in the afternoon and took pictures with some of my favorite coworkers.
These guys have made my college experience interesting, awesome and hilarious.

Looking back on my life the last three years, I can see how much I have changed and learned, inside the classroom and out. And let's be frank: I have done so much more learning outside of the classroom, with friends and Mass and examination of my life as I've progressed from a green, eager-to-please freshman to an official graduate. I'm still pretty rule-abiding and eager-to-please, but now I feel more aware of the things worth spending time on and the kind of people worth keeping in my life and the situations not to waste too much time worrying about. I feel like I have a better handle on my spiritual life than when I started school. I am more comfortable with not having exactly every single detail planned since my career interests changed. I feel like I know the kind of woman I want to be and like I can be as graceful and loving as my great grandmother and as strong and hard working as my mother.

I have done a lot of growing up, I feel, even only in the last half dozen months. I am excited about the life ahead of me and ready to pursue my interests. But I think most of all, I just want to relax for a few weeks. I feel like I've earned it, and like some cold drinks on warm Summer nights with good friends, feasting and a bit of adventuring, living up the last of our campus life is the best way to close this chapter of my life.

Cheers, class of 2013!

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