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May 22, 2017

Karalyn Grimes ’16

Today is Commencement. Like most significant Oberlin events, it's giving me capital-F Feelings.

Even though I am still Class of 2016 as a December graduate, December graduates are invited to walk across the stage the following Spring. That means that last Commencement, I was not invited to the Champagne Dinner with my peers, I did not get to go to Senior Sco Night, my family did not get to come on a beautiful Spring afternoon and see me graduate with the people I spent four years at Oberlin with. And since I'm in the "Real World" working full-time now, I wasn't able to come back to actually walk on this very day. (Do I sound a little bitter? I'm a little bitter.)

But I did get to go to the December Graduate Senior Ceremony. This small, intimate gathering in Peters Hall's gorgeous lobby was for the thirty-odd of us finishing mid-year. My mother, father, and grandmother were able to come and share the evening with me. My mom even set up lanterns in Tappan so I could have my own Illumination. Monique Burgdorf, the Dean that I have met with weekly for the last two and a half years, and Mx. Toni Myers, former Africana Community Coordinator and now Director of the Multicultural Resource Center, were there and gave me hugs. Tom Reid, the Director of the Student Union and my Lanes boss, took me and the other graduates out to lunch. I would not have graduated Oberlin without these three mentors.

A girl touches a lantern hanging from a tree in the snow

Just as precious to me as the hundreds seen in May. My mother knows me well.


I also wouldn't have graduated without my friends. Even the ones I lost along the way. I apologize, but the next paragraph is going to read like a diary confessional/yearbook page. But that's what final blog posts are for:

To Sonya, for being my rock. Your eternal willingness and love got me through. Also frozen mozzarella bites in our kitchen at weird hours. Akane and Della, for teaching me tarot, thank you thank you. Akane, for giving me my only tattoo. I will always be heartbroken that as dedicated to transformative justice as we all are, it couldn't save our friendship. Rewa, my twin and soulmate. I'm sorry I never got to visit the bridge along the Bike Path with you, but I am grateful for every adventure we did have. I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you. Dana, the conversations we had sitting on our couch in our Big Red Crybaby House make my student loans worth it. I have learned so much from you and I could never put in words, my sweet Libra writer friend, how much it is that I love you. Forever shoutout to you and Rewa for the summer we lived in Oberlin together and took Sad Family Photos on top of the Jazz Building's garden. Wren, thank you for growing with me for three years and letting me be vulnerable with you. That one time a conversation in my kitchen turned into PRSM was cool. Anders, I have never felt more free than when I rode my bike with you down Spring St. Thank you for being my first and longest friend at Oberlin. Ale and Brielle, I had the biggest crushes on you I don't think I'll ever get over it. Kennedy, we will always have the Scottish mountainside and Oberlin-in-London and thank g-d for that. Theo, Alex, Hanne, Arch, Leila, thank you for so many things and for giving me hope for, and faith in, the upcoming Obies. Annika, thank you for hugging me while I sobbed at my last ever Cat show. There are no words for what that space meant to me during my four and half years at Oberlin and I will miss the entire Hales Gymanisum building every day for the rest of my life. Jess, I'm sad we never broke into the Hales swimming pool. (And okay, since this is a confessional, I had a huge crush on you too.) Bec, thank you for teaching me meme culture. Alison, thank you for shopping in Brown Bag Coop with me but still bringing me granola bars pretty much every day senior year. Amethyst, thanks for going from Early Decision John Green-loving Oberlin first-years to battered senior activists with me. And to both of you, thank you for building a life after Oberlin with me. Professors Chie Sakikabara, Janet Fiskio, and Gina Perez: Thank you for your advisement, knowledge and power. And Ma'ayan, for giving me this job and the encouragement + guidance to make me good at it. Also for the constant baked goods. Alumni I admired, first year Hark friends, ENVS majors and professors, people I danced with at Queer Beers, people I respected but never really got to know; this thank you in memoriam could go on and on. I am blessed for the experiences I had at Oberlin and the memories that will stay with me. It was always hard, but it wasn't nearly always bad.

So what have I been doing since graduation? I moved to Boston in December and began a job as an advisor with the National College Advising Corps. I work with low-income, first-generation college students on their postsecondary decisions. This is actually a bittersweet thing to write about because I am planning to leave Boston next month. I love my job and advising low-income students is a passion of mine--this city is not, though. I'm relocating back to the Midwest where my heart has always been so that my body can reunite with it. I'm hoping to do student support work at the collegiate level, domestic violence prevention and response work, and/or start my own business. I don't actually know what I'm doing with my life, other than that in twenty years I better live on a farm with this Environmental Studies degree. I'm trying to be okay with not knowing and with the twists and turns that are bound to come my way. If you are curious about where I land, stay posted for future Oberlin Switchboard AMAs.

Two students holding protest signs
Amethyst Carey (OC'16) and I at the Women's March in Boston.

If I were Karalyn Younger's College Advisor, I probably would tell them not to go to Oberlin. 22-year-old me knows that it was not the most sensible financial option--two years of community college and a transfer to a competitive institution would have been that. I didn't do this for two reasons: 1. I hadn't destigmatized community colleges from being a 'lesser option.' This was a bullshit classist rationale, community colleges are great! 2. But, more importantly, Oberlin was the right culture and learning environment for me. I was an idealist, empathic, dreamer, loner kid who wanted a home but didn't feel comfortable at home. I loved learning (I still do) and I wanted to be challenged--in the classroom and by my peers. I knew I wanted to prioritize social justice but I didn't know where to start and I didn't have access to theory or conversation centering the issues I cared about. Oberlin was the place for me--academically and personally. 22-year-old Karalyn the College Advisor would not say Oberlin College was the best decision. But 17-year-old Karalyn knew it was for her. And I'm grateful she chose her dream school.

I do have a bomb diploma and a chosen community for life. And $42,000 in student loans.

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