“Go forth. Think. And save the world.”
–E.O Wilson, Commencement speaker 2011
A hug doesn’t do it, I’ve decided. How can you hug away the last four years of your life? With commencement weekend this weekend, I’ve grabbed my friends and held onto them for dear life. And since none of us want to let go of each other, the hugs go on and on. We’re standing there in the bleachers, in parking lots, outside Kenan stadium, in the middle of Goodfellows, on Franklin street caught in these endless (but actually finite) hugs. I wish I could wrap up four years of good life and love with a hug and be on my way. It’s not that easy so this is what we do: we hug until at least one of us starts or stops crying, we say, ‘write me, visit me, you mean everything to me’ and we usually walk away from each other faster than we’d like because we have to get moving and there are more goodbyes to get through. We have to stop thinking about everything we’ve been through together and how deeply we care about each other. We care so much and not even a hug can capture it. Luckily, in the end, the experiences will never end. We’ve had them; we’re blessed to have had them; we’re blessed to have each other; and nothing can end what we are and have been.
So, that being said, here’s my graduation:
Saturday night I’m falling asleep on the couch in Sherene’s lap watching Sex and the City, drinking sparkling wine with frozen berries after a long day that began at 7am with a graduation breakfast, then my nephew’s baptism, family lunch, then checking out of my dorm forever, going to baccalaureate mass at Newman, graduation dinner…. and I’m tired. Eventually, we rally and go out to see friends, and eventually I make it to Christina’s bed where I’ve spent many nights in four years and we watch Modern Family until we don’t remember falling asleep and wake up to get ready for our 9am graduation.
Her family arrives with coffee and breakfast and we’re dashing around, cramming into a van, pushing through a sea of blue in Kenan in the sprinkling rain. Our suite from freshman year decided four years ago we would sit together at graduation and we’ve stayed close and kept our promise. As the procession in begins, we’re holding hands – eight of us—and saying, ‘don’t lose me! don’t let go!’ The cheers and shouts of “Tar! … Heels!” drown out the processional music and we’re in a bleacher all together and we talk about how we need concessions, hit the beach balls across the crowd, laugh, cry, sway to “Carolina on my mind,” shout “Go to hell, Duke” and “Rah, rah, Carolina-lina!” Before I can even soak it up, it’s over.
I’ve tried to write thank you notes. I’ve tried to give at least a smile to everyone before I leave Chapel Hill. I’ve tried to ease it all with an “I’ll be back.” Ultimately, though, I can’t say thank you enough or show my love enough to this place and these people who have shaped me and been there for me these past four years. My family, my friends, my teachers, my role models, everyone in my life has changed and inspired me, drawn me forward, reminded me of everything I have to fight for; they have reminded me of everything I have inside me that shines forth and makes me a person who will go out and do great things in the world. I can truly say that in this place I have seen greatness around me all the time: I know great people and I have great friends and all of them have given me great wisdom, love, and life. Those who have slipped and stood and held on beside me, those who have pushed and supported and hoped, those who aim to be bigger and feel deeper, those who are vulnerable and powerful and courageous—they are my Carolina. They are my world. I will never be able to say enough to say how much they mean to me and how much Carolina has transformed my world and made me into the person I am today.
I actually cannot even bear to try to write more lest I break down crying in Starbucks where I am writing this. So I will end this graduation post with a deep heartache and gratitude, an endless hope for tomorrow, and a rooted strength knowing I am leaving a place that has made me into a person capable of changing the world.
Thank you everyone for an amazing four years. I love you all!