In seven short, agonizingly long hours I will put on a black cap and gown, walk across a stage and turn my tassel with hundreds of other Arkansas State University Red Wolves. I am deliriously happy and frightened. I have no idea what is next and I’m trying to be okay with that. And while ASU has definitely been the source of four years’ worth of stress and grief, I’ve been fairly emotional the past few days and I can’t help but take a trip down memory lane (cliche, right?).
Freshman year. I am bouncing in my brand new dorm room waiting for Mom and Dad to get out of my hair. There is a bright blanket covering my bed and holy crap I have really fast internet and wow I can go stay the night in my boyfriend’s room. This is awesome. I am attending social events, trying to mingle with other Honors students because I am in college now and I have the opportunity to meet new people. I am getting tipsy off of Mike’s Hard but staying in my dorm room because a night with the girls is so much better than getting trashed at a frat house. Yet here I am suddenly at a frat house (my one and only time), watching new pledges dance in their underwear and running off at the end of the night with one of the pumpkins the boys had out for decoration (sorry Sigma Pi boys, I can return that if you like). I am excited about Wildlife Ecology. I become single. I am losing friends.
Sophomore year. Good God I have a full size bed this is the best. I am living with three beautiful, amazingly funny girls. I chop all my hair off and it’s liberating, but naturally I soon hate it and how am I supposed to look cute with boy hair? Doesn’t matter, my classes are getting tough. I am a year ahead of schedule and entering my upper levels. I attend a foam party and have the chance to go home with a boy. I don’t. Football games and late nights of studying. Bribing my roommate to finish an essay for me. We get to know the boys next door so well we casually stroll into each other’s rooms without knocking. I flirt with these boys (or think that I do, anyway). Suddenly I am no longer a science major. I have jumped into this terrifying world of writing and photography and now I have to move out into another dorm. I have gained friends.
Junior year. This is…nice. I belong somewhere. I am terrified to walk up to the editor of the school newspaper but I do it and now I am writing and taking photos and getting published? Wow. I get a part time job at Maurices and spend all my money on clothes because why not. Writing. Journalism. Photos. I am tired, but I am where I belong. I find people who want to do what I want to do. I make a new best friend and helllooo are these people fun. I am travelling to Chicago (and meeting Josh Peck!) and going to NEW YORK?! getting to meet thousands of other students in journalism and learn so, so much more about my future job. I am an editor for our paper? Really?
Senior year. I have realized I should actually start on my thesis. I am excited about classes even though they will be hard but it’s my senior year and gosh darn if I don’t enjoy it. I am news editor and terrified because news stories are my weakness, not my strength, but my editor in chief takes me under his wing and shows me how to design pages before believing in me and letting me fly on my own. My confidence is crushed by a teacher and I nearly lose it and truly almost drop out. My boyfriend struggles to hold me up and motivate me. It is months before I pick up a camera again. New Orleans comes with more journalism lessons but I am taking time to live and I go to a strip club on Bourbon (who would pass that up?). Spring semester and quickly I am falling headfirst into getting this stupid, stupid thesis done, God I hate this. My friends give plenty of hugs and cups of alcohol to soothe the pain. And then. Then I am done with classes (although I don’t turn in one final assignment…). I am spending one last night with my school family all together, drunkenly swing-dancing in a friend’s kitchen. This is real. We are all going to different things. This is growing up. This is college.
Graduation day. I am sitting in pajamas, sucking down coffee because I am too nervous to eat. I still don’t know how I will fix my hair today and I still haven’t painted my nails. It looks cold and dreary outside but my robes are hanging up in my closet, cords and medals around the neck, decorated cap sitting nearby. I am running on six hours of sleep and so I’m wondering if I should set aside the heels and go for a safe pair of flats. I don’t have some big kid job lined up and for that I feel ashamed and stupid but today is not the day to worry about that. In seven short, agonizingly long hours I will put on a black cap and gown, walk across a stage and turn my tassel with hundreds of other Arkansas State University Red Wolves.