Memories are a funny thing. Some things are burned into my brain cells…so much so that I can bring them up without much hesitation. My grandmother’s passing. My cousin Chris’ wedding. The birth of all three cousins. They are all there.
One memory in particular is pretty dear to myself: My college graduation.
College for me wasn’t a walk in the park. If you’ve read my columns, you will recall that I was a bit of a hot mess when I started. I had no motivation, was completely confused, didn’t have very many friends and failed miserably. I rallied, but it didn’t come without monetary, and time, costs. I had to add a year of schooling and take around 17 hours my last two semesters. The first semester I survived. Granted with much complaining, caffeine and lost sleep. It was the last semester that seemed to be daunting.
I piled a lot of my plate, which, in retrospect wasn’t the greatest idea ever. I was rock director at KSDB, I was taking challenging but necessary classes, working 30 hours a week and interning on top of everything else. Add in homework, and my social life basically dwindled to me spending a few hours trying to watch TV and not have a mental breakdown in my studio apartment. Somehow, I managed to get almost all A’s that final semester. I also managed not to pull my hair out and go crazy by the time graduation rolled around a year ago today.
I remember this day like it was literally yesterday. It rained in the morning, which annoyed me because I wanted to have immaculate hair. My hair is naturally curly and I straighten it every day. Moisture is the enemy. On arriving, I stood in line for what seemed like forever. I would like to take a moment and thank my mother for talking some sense into me and convincing me to wear comfortable shoes. Once we waited long enough, the walking part started. Most of it was a blur. I remember walking down steps and being afraid of falling. The real vivid part is entering the floor of Bramlage Coliseum and seeing a packed house of families and friends, most of which weren’t my own, but all there for the same purpose. I ended up sitting in the back row of the right side of Arts and Sciences. I remember seeing my mom, dad, aunt and uncle from Texas and my cousin and his wife in the stands. I also remember them texting me asking why this thing was taking so long. I told them 1,000 plus people take a long time to walk through and shake hands. I cheered for my classmates and my friends. It was a wonderful day celebrating the shutting of one door of my life and the opening of another: Adulthood, post-collegiate. Jobdom, as I like to call it.
But for me, graduating meant way more than just walking across a stage to shake Kirk Schulz’s hand. I was proud of myself. I had survived a situation that, for some people, would have been impossible. Just the concept of me going to college was a bit of stretch seeing that I’m from poor Irish southerners, give or take a few, and we didn’t normally get educated. We do hard skill labor and other things, but we aren’t white-collared. My parents did well with the education they had, but they were never given the opportunities I was given. In that moment, I was really happy, and extremely grateful, to make it. Yes, I have a lot of debt, yes I had a lot of sleepless nights and now an uninhibited addiction to caffeine. But I got something many people in my family never had the opportunity to get.
One of my favorite movies is A Knights Tale. In it, Heath Ledger’s father tells him that a man can always change his stars. Meaning, that a man can always change his destiny. I feel that’s what I did. I changed the fate of myself to not have as many hardships as others in my family have had. I am grateful and it’s something I will never, ever, forget.