The corridor is immersed in black gowns, draped with the colors of how we left our mark. Sorority letters and symbols of high honors march along the cinderblock walls that once felt cold— but now, we couldn’t imagine our lives without them. We cling to the strangers that turned into family, lacing our fingers as we embark into the bright lights, together. We look out to the tiny cheering drops that develop into our beaming friends and family.
We look back to each other, taking a deep breath—we make our final strut as college students, searching for the arms of our closest loved ones. The people who shaped us into this very moment that we’ve been dreaming and dreading since this four-year journey began. We wave to them, as a slight puddle emerges from the corner of our eyes. An immense amount of pure pride floods our vines, this is it. After all, we’ve been through, we made it.
You may feel like graduation is just something that was bound to happen and that eventually, you would be the one reaching this millstone of past pictures of the ones we looked up to. It’s far more than that.
Every obstacle, every night we covered the library with our blood sweat and tears… many, many tears— it was hard, harder than we could have ever even imagined. We dove into our textbooks just to pass that god awful Econ class that no one seemed to understand. We asked every question under the sun and studied the heck out of Associated Press style. We did this, no we didn’t do it alone— but, together we achieved it all.
It wasn’t bound to happen. Looking into the sea of tassels, each and every one of those decretive caps has a story of where they came from. Not one is the same, but we collectively share one singular moment— the one where we graduate.
We take our seats, lined with our respective programs of science, arts, education, business, our dreams so close we can almost touch them. We’ve talked about this degree and all the incredible ways we want to make the world a better place with it, for as long as we could imagine— and now, it’s here. The moment we’ve all been waiting for.
Our class president takes the stage. She grips the podium with all her might, connecting the thousands of us to what made us who we are. “Stop for a moment, take a look around and remember the person who you were, and who you are now.”
I remember walking in as a timid freshman. I was probably the shyest, least outgoing person, heavily intimidated by how big this place felt. I walked into the quad as friends greeted each other— they looked like they’ve had the closest bond, while I felt alone and terrified of this new chapter.
Now, I can’t step a foot on campus without hugging at least three people in passing. I’m stronger because I am a part of something bigger than myself. I put my work in and today, I leave my legacy with forever friends and a lifetime of memories.
The names began to be called one by one, Emily— who's off to be a teacher, Evan— who's moving away to make his dreams a reality, Alicia— who's off to change the world, one case study at a time. Suddenly, it’s our turn to stand.
Our story is engraved with treasures from our past. Did you make yourself a regular at the local college bar? Did you walk into the weekly frat party where everyone knew your name? Yeah, probably, but you also made some remarkable tales that you’ll someday tell your child some day. The stories of how you enjoyed every second with your friends who feel more like family will live in forever.
Did you work your butt off every week at the coffee shop down the road, writing paper after paper— settling for nothing less than the A you knew you were more than capable of? You made something of yourself. Yes, mistakes were made— but they came with life lessons, gracefully taking place of the strong, unstoppable individual that the freshmen you would be very proud of. You not only are leaving with the powers to let everything you ever wanted unfold right before your eyes, but you’re leaving with people who helped you become all that you could be and more.
The stage becomes closer and closer as you catch your favorite professor with tears in her eyes, mouthing “thank you”— yours start to water too. Your heals click the edge of the first step, as your best friend’s name is called. It’s your turn now. Stepping on the platform as the crevices of your lips effortlessly stretch across your face. You walk, holding your degree high with pride after shaking your dean’s hand for the very last time.
The air booms with excitement and airhorns. This is it, you are officially a college graduate. This would have never been possible without the people who believed in us along the way.
Some of us are moving, some of us will stay. As the great Hannah Montana song states, “This happy ending is the start of all our dreams”— but its essential to always remember one extremely important thing: “we might be apart but I hope you always know, you will be with me— wherever I go.”