Then there was that fiasco when I started high school where I was nervous all the time and I quit eating breakfast. And just like everything else in life, high school ended too. High school graduation is nerve racking and exciting as well, but in a totally completely different way. With my high school career I knew what was happening after I walked across the stage in that viking blue cap and gown with honor cords. I knew I would be walking into the dormitories on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow come August and I knew that would start a whole new life adventure.
Graduating college, on the other hand, is a whole new world of feelings. Not only is it going to be weird not worrying about term papers and semester projects and gallery reviews, but most of my friends still live in that place and here I am on the other side of it all.
Saturday at 11:30 TheBoy dropped me off in front of the Kibbie Dome. It was an hour before the ceremony was supposed to start and that whole morning I had been fine. I took a shower and washed my hair. Soaped up, rinsed off. Shaved. It was just like every other morning of my worldly existence and then when his little mazda pickup rolled to a stop in the crowded parking lot and it was time for me to shoulder my bag and head inside, something inside me clenched up. Suddenly I was nervous and nauseous and I couldn't believe he was leaving me there by myself.
"I'll see you soon," he said with a cheerful smile. He was more excited than I was.
"Not soon enough," I replied, and stepped out of the truck. It was cold and windy, but the sun was shining. I headed for the overly populated insides of the ASUI Kibbie Dome and held my breath. Today was the day I went from being a lowly college undergrad to a fully graduated Vandal allumni and but how weird was that going to be?
I had no idea where I was going once I got inside so I just followed other cap and gown clad bodies and wound up next to the other students with bright blue tassels. Apparently I needed a name card, for the photographer's sake, so I was sent to the front of the line to fill out my information. They didn't have a card with my name on it, which should have been a sign that I was in the wrong place, but you know, nerves.
So they gave me a blank one and I filled out the information and went to stand in line with the other college of education grads. I talked with some elementary school teacher hopefuls who were all just as nervous as I was about the whole thing. I was a wall flower mostly, just listening to the nervous nellies of the day chatter on in hopes that would help to calm them down.
Deans from other colleges would walk through our lines and congratulate us, asking what was next in life. We pretty much all had the same answer: Find a job. And what did they expect us to say, really? My adviser from the College of Art and Architecture made her way down our line, shaking hands and sharing smiles when she finally got down to me.
"You should go over and say hi to the other students in the Art and Architecture line!" She was telling me names of friends who were over there and I wondered why I wasn't in that line, too. I mean, I was supposed to be graduating from that college anyway, right? But they gave me a blue tassel! I followed her over to the line and we figured out the guys at grad fest had made a tragic mistake. They signed me up for the College of Art and Arch but had given me the same color tassel as the education college because I was graduating to become a teacher. It had been monumentally confusing at the time, but I trusted them.
Actually, I'm kind of glad they gave me the wrong tassel because the Art and Arch ones were brown. Blue fits me much better. I'm a blue kind of girl. I furiously texted mom and TheBoy to figure out where everyone was and uploaded a picture to Facebook. Today was the day. It all boiled down to this.
Music started playing over the loud speakers and then it was time for what I can only relate to as "march in." I'm sure there is a fancy official name for it, but it reminded me of gymnastics meets when all the teams would make their way to the floor at the beginning. Regally dressed faculty officials directed us to our seats as row after row of black caps and gowns filled the floor of the Kibbie Dome. It was decorated with giant black curtains, purposefully placed bouquets of white flowers, and two wooden podiums at the front, one of which was over 100 years old.
As I sat in that hard backed plastic chair sandwiched in between people, some of whom I'd never seen before in my life and some of whom I had cried and sweated and bled through agonizing art history and studio classes with, I thought about how in the world I ended up here.
I didn't set out to become a teacher, let alone an artist. I didn't know the road I would take once I started this journey, I just put one foot in front of the other and I kept going, no matter what happened. There were a few times that I wanted to drop out, but I didn't. There were a few times where I considered switching schools, but I stayed. I have made some of my best friends at this school. I have learned some important lessons while in attendance at this university. It helped shape me and mold me into the very person I am today, and had I gone somewhere else I would be someone else.
At 17 I was on this same floor of this same building gobbling up all sorts of information about what I was going to do with the next for years of my life. I was nervous, giddy, and excited. I spent the night with two college freshmen and another high school senior. We ate at Bob's. We walked around the buildings. Everything was fresh and new to me. To think that this same floor of this same building was where it was all going to end too was just insane. Mostly because I didn't know where all the time had gone. Had I just blinked? Wasn't I living in a room with my high school best friend just yesterday?
It was hard to hold back the tears. I worked hard for this. I fought for this. I filled out mountains of paper work and learned to draw, paint, print make, watercolor, barista, make friends, write papers, take tests, love boys, love Jesus, and become my own person all in a four and half year span. To say that I wasn't emotional would have been an understatement and after the president of the university handed me that black diploma case with the gold university stamp on the front of it, I just felt like melting. With blurry vision I shook hands and smiled at all the people congratulating me.
I was in a surreal state and I kept thinking that any moment it was just going to be a dream and I would wake up in my tiny Moscow apartment to find out I'd slept through class again. It couldn't be all over, could it? Could it?
There is a lot that I am going to miss about being in college, but there is a lot that I'm thankful to be finished with. Maybe someday I will go back for my master's degree and become a college professor, but for now I'm content to just see where this adventure takes me.
I celebrated all day Saturday with my family and TheBoy. We ate a tremendous amount of sushi and then bowled two games, which is another story for another day, and then we finished off at the movie theater to watch Playing For Keeps (sorry Boy that I made you sit through a chick flick!!). It was a fantastic day and I spent it with fantastic people that I love to be around.
Everyone keeps asking me how it feels, and I honestly don't feel that much different. I still have a week left of student teaching and then I have the library position until school is out in June. Ask me when I don't have to register for spring classes. Ask me in the summer when I don't have to go back in the fall. I'm sure it will be weird, but it will be my weird. It's just a new page in this book of life, a new beginning that is right in the middle of my story.
1st day of college 2008