I always thought I would cry at my high school graduation. The Vitamin C graduation song (Friends Forever) had been able to make me sob since I was in fifth grade and I sometimes feel as though I thrive off sentimentality.
But I didn’t cry. Because it wasn’t a final farewell. It was a celebration of all we had done and all we had learned. I sat next to a friend I had made my first day of 8th grade. I took pictures with my favorite teachers. I danced in my gown and twirled in the dress underneath it. I only tripped in my wedges twice.
So I made it through my high school graduation, smiling and expecting the best from the world. And I didn’t cry.
Yet here I sit, in my college-issued residence hall room, with one final and one summer separating me from starting my last semester of college, and four days separating me from the Westminster College Class of 2015 graduation ceremony and the departure of some of the best friends and role models a girl could have, and I feel strange.
Maybe I’m allowed to cry.
Dear class of 2015,
Maybe you’re allowed to cry. Because leaving one world and moving on to something else is scary. But it’s also exciting.
Remember how excited you were as a first-year student when you stepped into your dorm room?
Remember meeting your roommate and hoping that you guys would get along?
Remember the thrill of your first free T-shirt?
Yes, it is undoubtedly scary to step into the unknown. But that hasn’t stopped you before.
Maybe you’re allowed to cry. Because your network of professors, administration, staff, and students is going to be more spread out than it used to be. But that only offers more opportunity.
Think about how happy you were to get a letter in the mail during your first week of school. Stamps may be expensive, but keeping up with your best friends is priceless.
Think about visiting your friend in a new state…haven’t you always wanted to see Seattle?
Think about how, at the very least, technology has evolved to the point where you can video chat someone in an instant.
No one is inherently good at goodbyes. That’s why I prefer to focus on the hellos.
Maybe you’re allowed to cry. Because you have no idea what the future holds. But think of the freedom that brings.
If your next-door neighbor ever rang the doorbell on a warm summer day holding a kickball, a Frisbee, and a skateboard…
If you ever had a snow day after you had caught up on all your school work…
If you have an endless possibility of clothing choices after finally doing your laundry…
Regardless, I think you’re allowed to cry. But they have to be tears of happiness because there is another word for what is about to happen on many upcoming weekends over the next month…
A commencement, by definition, is a noun meaning a beginning or start.
You’re not leaving behind friends or memories or experiences. You’re taking them with you. You have allowed an institution to shape your world for four years. You’ve had your ups and downs in the kind of love affair that every student has with education, but you did it.
And you should be incredibly proud of that.
But please, don’t see it as an end.
Commencement means beginning.
To the senior class at Westminster College: Saturday, May 9th, 2015 doesn’t mark the end of your college career. It marks the beginning of a new journey that you cannot even dream of now.
To senior classes everywhere: Make your commencement something to be proud of. And if there were ever a point in which you needed the push to make that change, it might just be that now is your new beginning.
Best of luck everyone.