My Oberlin blog has turned into Serious Space 2.0. Despite the fact that the more you do something, the better you get and the easier the process might be... being a blogger doesn't get easier, because things get more interconnected and reflective and verbose. The more thoughts you have, the more complicated thinking can be. (Oh, the struggle.)
I'm coming up on my seventh commencement reunion weekend next week.
First of all. What. That's a lot of hugs and happies and tears and transcendent moments.
Second of all, this one is special and big, because my little brother is graduating (?! I remember writing my first Oberlin blog posts specifically with him in mind and now he is BIG and GRADUATING) and my first reunion (?!?! I know I graduated in 2010 but with our cluster reunion model here at Oberlin, my 5th cluster reunion group — the classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010 — is celebrating the 4th, 5th, and 6th reunions all clumped together) is all mashed up for this wonderful weekend of fun and friends and family and freaking out about the future and the past and the present all at once. And yes, I tried to write about this annual occurrence once here on the blogs and cried through the whole second half of writing it and I still get really misty every time I read it. I don't know why I'm trying again, but the confluence of events is too much for me to not try and tackle. It's Oberlin steeped in so much more Oberlin, which means that the blogs needs some bottled up emotional elixir, stat.
I suppose my seasoned existence here in Oberlin, as a student and alum and as A Real World Adult means that I should pontificate a bit. *grabs mic*
To my graduating peoples (high school seniors, college seniors — including but not limited to Ben, all my student employees, and friends alike) and my 5th cluster reunion friends (or Oberlin friends anywhere of any year), returning or otherwise, here are my constants:
You will have emotions. They won't stop, either. She says, as she gets all sniffly at her desk at work.
And that is okay. It's okay. *hugs* I'd be more worried if you didn't have feelings. The only secret that no one will tell you is that your feelings aren't going to subside, not after graduation, not after five years, not ever. You're going to have way more of them and they'll probably intensify. When your friends become your chosen family, when your passions become your world... yeah, it doesn't get easier. But I think that's okay. In living life to its fullest, you gotta take the highs and lows all at once.
College is a feelings roller coaster (she says, as she waved to the bus heading to Cedar Point this morning — we have two organized trips during the year, at the end of orientation week and at the beginning of senior week, because full circles are nice) and most of us aren't prepared from day one to day the last. The microcosm of college is like summer camp on steroids both in terms of experiences and emotions, but these things are unparalleled. I don't even like roller coasters (seriously, the first coasters I ever rode were during the Cedar Point orientation trip in 2012, and let's just say they're more nerve-wracking than fun for me) but I do think that the ups and downs of Oberlin life made me more willing and able to tackle the emotions of the bigger world.
In preparation for all kinds of friends flooding back to campus this week, I'm trying to prepare myself for feelings. The last time we were all together on campus was our commencement weekends, and that flood of feels is a complete blur to me, even in retrospect. I suspect it'll be similar this year, but one thing is for sure: my feelings for my friends have deepened since graduation, because you have to work harder to stay connected — and that work does pay off in hugs and conversations and finally finally, Feve tots, together again.
You are ready.
I know this. I don't know what any Obie is going to do after graduation or where you're going to do it, but I swear to goodness, you're ready for whatever comes next. How do I know? Because you're an Oberlin person, gosh darn it! If I can do it, so can you! Be it next week or next year, you will learn new things, try new stuff, make your own opportunities, fail, fly, and freaking OWN the world.
Aw yeah. Tuck that degree in your back pocket and just go out there and do your thing. I'm so proud of all of you. I'm so proud of my friends' journeys post-Oberlin, literally world-encompassing, both near and far from Oberlin, and while we're not entirely sure of our next steps, we're confident that in leaping, a net will appear. (I feel this too, every day, when I tackle my work: my field is coming into existence as I work in it, and there's no map for where we're going. Exciting? YES. Terrifying? Also yes. But I wouldn't trade it for anything, because I'm ready to do whatever "it" might be.)
It's gonna be hard.
Life sucks sometimes. Life is also super awesome sometimes. If it were all one or all the other, well, that would get kind of boring, but also unbalanced and unhealthy and sort of scary. A healthy mix of the two makes it easier to do each.
Like I said above, though, you are ready. You dealt with hard things before and you can deal with them again. Each time you do, you get better at doing it the next time. You got this.
But also remember that even the little wins are good and worth remembering. I'm doing a challenge to myself this year where I write down one good thing that happens every day, usually just a moment or something small that made me smile. I recommend doing this; it's a nice shift in perspective at the very least, and at the end of the year, I'll have 365 good things to look back on. My good things are weighed pretty heavily towards conversations and meals shared with friends, and more often than not, if my day included an exchange with an Oberlin friend, it *is* a good thing. They're my handkerchief for tears, of joy and otherwise.
In addition to tackling the hard stuff, consider that...
We are here for each other.
We are only as strong as our support. As I mentioned to Ida in an email, "I hold together myself and my friends together. Y'all are a part of me." I wouldn't have gotten this far in life (and there's no way I can go on) without those around me. This is why I love networks, those interconnected mooshes and mashes of humans who will catch you when you fall, boost you when you need a pick-me-up, and bounce you higher when you're walking on air. The nets. They work.
Alex so succinctly encapsulated this idea during one of our virtual student panels, and I would be remiss to not share it in this post: "You are not meant to do things alone." There's so much truth in that. Whether you're coming into Oberlin this fall, graduating in just a few days, or already out there in the world, know that it's okay to ask for help, from the people you know and from the people you've yet to meet.
And don't forget to say thank you, and to pass that sentiment on. (Really. Humanity operates so much better with gratitude.) Following wrapping up my final student loan payment last month (!!), I immediately gave back to Oberlin in support of scholarships and in honor of my parents, as a public and heart-felt thank you for two really big and important things that got me to where I am today. We alums spend a lot of time sharing and spreading the things we have to give to each other, and my Oberlin people are the ones I will turn to in any situation for ideas and inspiration, places to stay in new cities, and answers to my myriad questions.
You will change.
You thought college was about changing yourself? Yes. It is. But college gives us our first big opportunities to change ourselves and our minds so that we can go out there and change the world, but this will not stop once college is done. The more we know, the more we don't know. This is the beginning of the rest of your life.
And yet, it's not. Every day to me still feels like the beginning of the rest of my life, like every step is the first new one of something else. I can't even begin to count the ways I've changed in the past four years, but I dare say that it was even more than I changed the four years before that. I've been become more deeply rooted, but with more branches reaching out. I've kept many of my beliefs, but I've found new things to believe in and become more firm in my decisions to believe what I do believe already. For all the things I've learned, I've learned that there's even more I won't.
While you could look at this as defeat, I look at this as wild success. If that's not liberal arts education and its overall impact on your life in a nutshell, I don't know what is.
In all these musings, I think there's one main constant: there is persistence in the past for the present and future, no matter where you are with your relationship with yourself, your family and friends, Oberlin, and the rest of the world. I've got:
- Eight years in Oberlin,
- seven years of Oberlin commencement/reunion weekends,
- six years of Oberlin blogging,
- five bits of advice (see above),
- four years since this post-grad whirlwind started, four years of Oberlin jobbin', four years of Ben here in Oberlin,
- three fabulously wonderful Plauts,
- two eyes to see more, two ears to hear more, two hands to hold more, two legs to take me farther, and
- one world, one me,
And I'm not ready for things to stop there.
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May 7, 2021