This picture was taken two years ago, January 28, 2015. And here’s the story…
I was in college for 10 semesters. Some were easy, some were hard. In the middle of semester 10, I realized I was finished with my degree and just sort of got bored. I was ready to be done with college, or so I thought.
I immediately called my dad when I turned in my application for graduation. I was so excited to finally be able to walk into the student services building with a purpose, and a purpose I was actually excited about. As I told him I just turned in my application, I walked across the library plaza, and right by a group of freshmen, on a tour of campus. I smiled as I realized the odd juxtaposition of me, a senior and gushing about how happy I was to be turning in my graduation application, and the group of freshmen, learning about the campus I had come to know and love.
To be completely honest, I was also a little scared. As I was graduating, that meant I was finally joining the “real world” I had heard so much about in classes for the past 18 years…or however many years it was. I didn’t have a job lined up, and I didn’t have much plan of how I would get there. But I did know one thing: I had finally learned enough about some field to earn a piece of paper, albeit heavy duty paper, that said I had done just that.
I turned my application in in June or some other hot time. It must have been summer, as I met the group of prospective students in front of the library. I technically still had a semester to go, and I would really only earn my degree if I had successfully completed that final semester that was ahead of me.
Spoiler alert: I successfully finished that semester. 🙂
I didn’t know when my diploma would arrive, I just knew it would be sometime after grades were in and enough time had passed to process that I had passed (or not passed) all my classes. I figured that I would have a diploma by the end of January. I was right. January 28, 2015, I went to check the mail and in the box was a heavy duty envelope from the University of Utah. I picked it up, and immediately was so excited. There it was. I didn’t think I would ever actually accomplish it. It’s not that I didn’t think I was smart enough, it’s not that I was anticipating dropping out and never returning, it was that at times, it seemed like such a lofty goal that I didn’t think it would come. But it did!! I ran back to my apartment and carefully ripped open the envelope. As I slid the diploma, MY diploma, out of the envelope, I didn’t know to cry or jump or laugh with excitement. I think I probably did all three.
I did an awkward thing and graduated in December. That meant that I wasn’t a member of the class of 2014, but I didn’t really feel like a member of the class of 2015, even though I technically was. I was invited to walk in the Spring, even though I hadn’t been attending class at all that Spring semester. I decided I didn’t want to go to the ceremony and be bored, listening to a class that I really didn’t feel a part of. So I didn’t walk. If I could do it again, I think I would. Just for the finality of my college days. I suppose I could just go back and get another degree…but that is a discussion for another time…
The day I received my diploma, as I looked down at it to take this picture, I stood there and reflected on my college experience. I thought of how much I had learned, both inside and outside of the classroom, how much I had grown, how different I was from the girl that had started college in August 2010. I thought about how proud I was that I had actually realized one of my hardest goals to date, and how inadequate I felt to be facing the world that I had in front of me. I thought about whether or not I would be friends now with that girl that started in August 2010. (I would like to think the answer is yes) I thought about all the silly things I could say to make light of the situation, but I didn’t want to taint the memory. I simply felt relief, and pride for myself.
I also thought about how fancy my full name looked in official diploma script; I looked at the name about 10 separate times to make sure it was spelled right. I mean, it isn’t a name that is difficult to spell wrong, but you never know.
My diploma also brought with it the close of my college career. That meant I had to move on, that meant I had to start a new chapter of my life. It wasn’t necessarily one I wanted to start just then, I was being forced to start it. The proof was literally lying in front of me, on my dining room table. I had to take my first step forward as an official college graduate. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t necessarily ready to accept this fate at the time, but it was too late to turn back now. I just had to go forward, and fake it ’til I made it. But taking that step forward was the best thing for me to do. I had to grow up, in a matter of speaking. I had the tools to move forward now. I knew was I was doing, the University of Utah taught me so.
Shortly after that, I listened to the song, “Run the World”, by Beyonce. The line, “Lemme raise a glass for the college grads,” had a new meaning, and I was totally all for that.
I was going to be fine, I concluded. My diploma proved that.