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Commencement (and the flood of emotions that comes with it)

May 30, 2010

Within a mere few hours, I will no longer be a student of Oberlin College. I've known since I was 16 that being a student here was exactly what I wanted, but thinking past that has not always been easy. After all, Oberlin has been the great love of my life. I love every building and book, squirrel and song at this place. When you find something you love as intensely and completely as I love Oberlin College, it's hard to consider leaving. But the whole point of coming to college is to graduate, right?

Graduating is especially important for me as the first generation to attend college and the first at all in my extended family to go straight from high school into a four-year college. As bitter-sweet as it may be to graduate Oberlin, there's no way that I could let down the "ol' bald-headed guy," as my father calls himself. Thirty-seven years ago, my father walked across the stage to become the first high school graduate in his family. Even if his mother hadn't been diagnosed with terminal cancer the week before, there never would have been the money to send him to college. He took a few classes at the vocational school and got a job to take care of himself and the young sister he brought up. His major ambition for me was the same he had for her: to graduate high school without getting pregnant. We both achieved that goal, and I went startlingly far beyond it, due mainly to my parents' work to open opportunities for me and my considerable love for books and knowledge. Later my love of Oberlin took over, and has brought me to this point. I have been hugging my father all day, and he has said more times than he has perhaps in the rest of my life combined how proud he is of me. This is echoed by my mother, who has been merrily feeding and hosting dozens of visitors at my apartment in the style of a true Southern hostess, and my grandparents, who have been attempting to absorb this whole experience as much as they can.

So I'm left torn between never wanting to end my experience at Oberlin and making the final step of achievement. Thankfully, the illustrious Ben Jones has left me with an excellent alternative. After applying for a position alongside dozens of other well-qualified applicants and spending an exceedingly anxious week, I was offered the position of Media Relations Fellow in the Oberlin Office of Communications. Other than the obvious perks of getting to work alongside the Web Fellow, my lovely and talented friend Ma'ayan Plaut, I will get to stay in Oberlin for a year, getting paid to write about my beloved Oberlin College. I'll join the ranks of other alums I know who are crazy about spreading the love of this place: Ben Jones, Aries, several Admissions counselors like Elizabeth, and the great David Walker. I could not be more thrilled to be combining writing, my love of Oberlin, and (let's face it) a paying job.

Having a job here certainly softens the blow of graduating. I won't have to move out of Oberlin or give up my addiction to the Feve's stinky tots. I can keep conducting interviews for Admissions every now and then as an alumni interviewer. I'll have time to really dig through the library stacks and I'll be able to still bounce ideas off my favorite professors about things I've read.

Really, I'm kind of cheating. I'm getting the best of both worlds by graduating and going out into the work force but also not leaving college. Hopefully that thought will keep me from being a sobbing mess until after I walk past Julie Taymor and smile at President Krislov as he hands me my diploma. If you see me after the ceremony, give me a wave as I hug the bald man and the family who paved the way for me to get both a college degree and a great first job.

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