It was 8:28 PM when I hit “send” on my final assignment last night. I grabbed my roommates into a hug, squealing. Ten years in the works, and I am finally done with my undergraduate degree. In a few hours, I’ll be slipping into a black robe, arranging a cap on my head, and preparing to walk across a stage.
People keep saying I must feel so proud.
A little yes. I mean — I worked hard. I stayed up late, I studied until my eyes hurt, I read hundreds and hundreds of pages. I debated, presented, argued. I took rivers of notes. I left for three years but then came back and picked up where I had left off — classes full time with an order of life on the side. There was moving, paying bills, buying groceries, and bolting all over the city for odd jobs. There were meltdowns and night runs, there were moments of loneliness and anxiety attacks, desperate emails, and phone calls that stretched into the night.
People keep saying I was strong.
A little yes. But they don’t see the people behind the scenes. It would take me hours to tell you about them — these kind, generous people who have made this moment possible. I doubt I would have made it this far without the mentors who urged me onwards, without the classmates who befriended me, without the professors and faculty who took the time to stop me in the hallway and remind me that I was almost done. What would I have done without the friends who let me weep, laugh, and procrastinate when I needed it? Or the far away ones who urged me onwards in text messages, phone calls, and care packages? If it wasn’t for these people, for their kind words, for their votes of confidence displayed through a thousand and one gestures of affirmation, I would be off somewhere drifting in a sea of self-doubt and procrastination. These people are the ones who challenged me to pursue excellence, who made me work harder, dream bigger, face my own shortcomings, and take leap after leap of faith.
I’ve often wanted to be independent and self-made. But these past ten years, God has shown me that the beautiful, well-lived life is a collaboration. So when I graduate Saturday, yes, I will be thinking of how hard I worked. But I will be mostly thinking thoughts of gratitude for the great cloud of witnesses who have loved me, who have urged me on, who have never let me give up.