By Valerie Reich
The days before graduation were packed in with excitement and last minute adventures. Everyone I knew was trying to get in their last few moments of “college” time. Final trips to Fat Frogg’s and Tony’s, jumping into the fountains, late night talks with friends, and jokes with professors and mentors were on the daily agenda for most graduating students. I spent my time creating some final memories and making sure that my friends around me knew how important they were to me and how much I cared for them. The future didn’t feel real, but I was reflective, appreciative, nervous, and ready all rolled up into one big bubble of excitement.
Graduation day was simultaneously one of the longest and shortest days I’ve ever experienced. The outpouring of love, support, and excitement made the day zip by, yet the collective nervousness, anticipation, and fear of tripping on stage made certain moments seem unending.
My day started with an early morning senior gathering at a local bar filled with cheers and tears as we sipped mimosas in our robes, took photos, and had one last moment all together before heading to the gym to get prepared for graduation. The photos and videos from those last moments are images I will treasure forever.
As we moved on to our seating arrangements, chatting excitedly with the other graduates around us, time flew by and before I knew it my seating row was being beckoned to the stage. As I stood at the edge of the stage, I watched the girl in front of me cross into her future. Time stood still while I realized that was about to be me. I took a moment to look across the audience which was a crowd of graduates, friends, families, and loved ones cheering all of us on. In that moment I felt an intense rush of gratitude for the friends, professors, and mentors who guided me along one of my life’s greatest periods of personal growth.
As my name was called, the crowd clapped and cheered, I crossed the stage winking at Professor Lambert as he handed me my diploma, exited the stage and walked down the center isle of my fellow graduates. High-fives, handshakes, waves, smiles, and cheering followed me down that center isle and even as my heels sank into the wet grass – essentially running them – my heart was overcome with emotion. In that moment nothing else in the world mattered beyond the love and support of those around me and the love and support I was ready to share with them as we all ventured into the next chapter of our lives.
The days after graduation were filled with tears – tears of laughter and tears of sadness. Change is a difficult thing to digest for most people, myself being of no exception. The idea of leaving the comfort of the family and home I had built for myself over the course of the last four years was terrifying yet exciting. I didn’t want to leave my friends or stop making memories with them but I was ready to adventure and grow.
Acclimating to life post college, for me, has had as many downs as it has had ups – but the downs have made the ups so much sweeter. “Adulting” is difficult. Working is hard, taxes aren’t fun, people aren’t always kind, things are expensive, and sometimes nothing goes your way.
But the rewards are so great that all of the hard work that you have done, do, and will do is worth the times of difficulty. You create and live the life that you want. Your choices and your path are just your own.
I am continuing to grow into the person that I want to become, and though the idea of who that person might be will change over time, the character and lessons I’ve learned throughout at Elon University will always remain part of my personal foundation.
Photo Credit: Danny Sellers