I will lead you to your graduation.
You may remember me as your coffee mate, your study buddy, your co-worker, your close confidant in the early morning hours but for the next two days I will be nothing but an usher for your graduation ceremonies; after that I will be nothing for many of you.
Last Friday I was given a 20-paged manual detailing exactly how I should dress, conduct myself, walk and talk on one of the most important days of your life. I am to be on time, wearing a blue robe that stands in sharp contrast with your black gowns and withhold all emotions as I lead you to your seats and fend off your proud parents. I am to maintain order, and not break down in tears as some of my best friends here toss their hats in the sky and turn to a new chapter in their lives.
It’s not to say that I only remember you now that I am burdened with so many responsibilities to ensure your graduation go smoothly. I seized many opportunities to spend some of your last Yale moments together, yet I longed to return to a time when I didn’t have to be reminded that whatever I did, it was the last time. I detest myself for perpetually basking in the past.
As an usher for your commencement, I was housed in – coincidentally – the same dorm as my freshman year suite. As I unlocked the creaking door to a familiar tiny common room of four desks and four chairs memories came flooding back. For a moment I saw myself, an awkward freshman year girl wearing a bulky turquoise coat, carrying a beige rucksack, scratching her head at a calculus problem set, trying to piece her life together and crying – why, why. For a moment I struggled to understand. For a moment I thought of her, dragging into Phelps Gate two gigantic suitcases, believing that graduation lay beyond the end of time and revering seniors as sage adults well-seasoned in this tumultuous world.
Two years later, I again ponder the possibility of life outside of this bubble of a universe of fear and possibilities. I look at you, and I realize that most of you are not the sage adults I enshrined and worshipped – you are almost children, just like me, and many of you are jaded, exhausted and terrified. Many of you will have to work a job, find an apartment, drive, cook, live alone – perhaps for the first time in your lives. You’ll miss a time when perhaps your biggest worry is a paper deadline and not the next meal. No matter how much you complained, you’ll miss on-campus housing and dining halls, libraries and suite parties on weekend nights.
You’ll think of Yale – angrily, begrudgingly, fondly. So much pain; so much happiness. But like baby eagles let go for the very first time you’ll spread your wings and soar.
As I guide you to your commencement, I think of each and every one of you. I reminisce on our treasured moments shared together, but I also look forward, and darn it I am so thankful to be a part of your lives, of the lives of these courageous, persevering, fabulous souls in a brave new world. I am sad but I am overcome with joy, knowing that you will be the best anyone can ever be, struggling, surviving, flourishing.
Congratulations, and rule this world.