Commencement: An Actual, not Hypothetical Reality Anymore

So, obviously, I’m now a Smith alum, no longer a Smith student. My commencement (from Smith into the graduate school/real world) is no longer a hypothetical situation I discussed until I went blue in the face with other exiting seniors, but now is a harsh reality I must stare in the face for the next seven weeks. Granted, in some ways, I was thrust into the real world a bit earlier than most this year when I was accepted to seminary, but at the same time, I was pulled away from it as well. Because I am going to seminary in seven weeks, I feel as though I am toeing the line between two entirely opposing worlds. One one side is the Liz who is a recent (very recent, in fact) college grad, and has to figure out where I belong in this world, and how I will choose to impact and be impacted by it. But on the other is the Liz who is unlike most of her recent college-graduated classmates (who are entering the real world either employed or otherwise) – she is going to continue her studies. This Liz feels the progress she is making with her life by taking the next step toward the career she hopes to have in the future, but at the same time, wonders whether or not she is simply living in a state of stasis, with no steps backward, but only baby steps forward. Obviously, this is not the truth, nor the reality I’m facing at the moment. I know that seminary is not stasis, not glue on the bottom of my shoes that want to move toward future progress. It is the shoes, the motivation, everything I need to be the minister that I dream of.

This weekend was an extremely special moment for both myself and my family. Everyone always has told me that Ivy Day and Commencement are two absolutely beautiful ceremonies, but it wasn’t until I was actually a part of them – and my life was being changed drastically by them – that I understood what past graduates meant when they told me that. Ivy Day (aka Saturday am…) was the true beginning of the end. I’m not the “public display of emotion” type by any means, but I can understand why many of my fellow Smithies were choked up by the whole experience. Here we were, sitting in the quad, listening to various trustees and important women telling us that we are soon going to be a part of a special crowd, a cherished family, ad finitem. Women were standing in front of the podium, telling us that we were strong, empowered women, capable of anything we set our minds to. But it didn’t hit me that we were so “special” until they announced the different awards, honors and prizes. I remember leaning over to my friend next to me and saying, “my mom always told me I was ‘special.’” Well…at Smith, everyone’s mothers told them that they were special, perfect, etc. The moral of the story: we’re all special and good at something, and it is just about finding what you are good at and doing that with your whole heart.

Commencement was an entirely different matter. Saturday night/Sunday morning was spent rescuing the precious “M” and restoring it to its virgin beauty with some of my favorite Smithies. During this time (which had been prefaced with a wee bit of wine and a few margaritas…), we were able to bond together to make the last few hours at Smith special and a time to remember. Our “M” had been stolen by some visiting 2001 reunion alums, who had been holding it hostage and giving us clues as to its whereabouts via twitter. I’m not going to bother discussing why or how any of this happened, because that is beyond me and a waste of my breath. But myself and three other Morrisites were able to rescue the “M” from Carol Christ’s doorstep at 12:30 Sunday am and bring it home. While this whole fiasco shouldn’t have happened in the first place, the fact that it did served to bring us together even further in our last few hours of college. We bonded over calling public safety, and then by painting over the names of the alums who stole it (yeah, they were stupid enough to write their names on it i the first place), and the expletives they marked it with. I know that I have forged friendships that can withstand the tests and trials that distance and a lack of contact can impress upon us. I know that with some effort, we can have our own reunions and girls’ weekends, despite how far apart we are.

As I walked across the stage in the ITT, shook Carol Christ’s hand and took the diploma of one of my classmates (yeah, Smith does things the less-than-easy-way as frequently as possible…), I felt proud, nervous, excited, worried, frightened and empowered all at the same time. I wish that I could say that I felt different, or changed, because I think that would be a lie. I know that sometime in the future I will feel different, changed by the experiences I had while at Smith, but I think it is still far too early to tell what those might be. But I know the change is there, lying somewhere under the surface, inside of me, just screaming, waiting to come out and show who I have become.

Commencement has made my post-grad dreams a reality, whether I was ready for it or not. I have been saying over the past year that I was so ready for college to be over, and was in fact still saying that up until a few days before the day came when it would come to an end. But in the end, I’m not entirely sure how ready I was to be finished with college. Or perhaps, I’m not sure that I was ready to leave my friends. You all know who you are, and there are so many of you who were special, and instrumental in helping me become the person that I am today.

So, what is ahead of me now? Seven weeks at home, whatever that means, and then I finally get to move down to New Jersey to begin the rest of my life. I feel extremely thankful that I have a plan, somewhere to go. It gives me purpose, something to look forward to during my time here at home. But in the meantime, there will be lots of studying, reading, and thinking before I will feel even remotely prepared to enter seminary.

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