It really happened: I graduated from Oberlin College! Over a month ago, I packed up my life in Ohio and drove cross-country to California with my mom. And then, somehow, life kept moving. I’ve been telling myself to write this post, but I haven’t wanted to. It feels like college is really over if I’m leaving the Blogs. But here I am with one last post for you. For the sake of my emotions, let me say something trite: this isn’t a goodbye blog – it’s just a “see you later.”
Commencement week was everything I wanted it to be. I spent quality time with many of my favorite Obies, doing some crying, cooking, board-game-playing, reminiscing, and laughing. I tied up loose ends and hugged a lot of people. Then my sister and parents arrived! It was the first time we were all in Oberlin together, so it was a very special weekend. I showed them all my favorite Oberlin spots and we ate a ton of good food. My senior film played twice at the Apollo, which was a poignant way to cap off my Cinema Studies major. The night before graduation, I danced with my family and friends at the ’Sco for hours during my partner Joey’s DJ set. I was so present all weekend—it really was the best of Oberlin.
And then it was graduation! My favorite moment was walking into Tappan through two lines of professors. I hugged my mentors, a little teary, before finding my seat and starting the ceremony. The rest of it went by quickly. Soon we were taking photos, saying goodbye to our families, and taking our last walks around campus.
My housemates and I stayed in Oberlin for an extra week to pack up and savor our time together. On one of our last nights, I sat around the kitchen table with my best friends Joey and Hanne. In true Oberlin fashion, we did a check-in question. Most student organizations and some classes do one at the beginning of meetings. There are so many good questions, like “If you could have any mundane superpower, what would you choose?” and “Which Oberlin building would you name your child after?”
But one of the best is simple: a rose (positive), thorn (difficult), and bud (hopeful) about your recent life. Hanne asked us to answer that. It was easy. My rose—a perfect graduation weekend. My thorn—leaving my friends and the community I had built. Then I paused. “My whole life is a bud,” I said, and couldn’t help but laugh. “My whole life is a bud!”
I have to tell you, everything feels so hopeful right now. Oberlin gave me everything I needed. My professors helped me grow as I studied topics that spoke right to my heart. I got to meet myself in new ways in the classroom, the film studio, the editing lab – and after I got over some jitters and insecurities, I trusted my voice in those spaces. I learned that I have something to contribute everywhere I go.
When I drove away from campus, my life packed into my car, I felt sad, but ready for what was to come. I left Oberlin feeling seen in a way that my younger self had so desperately hoped for. My friends are so caring and thoughtful and kind – I dreamed about knowing people like them, and now they’ll be in my life forever. And at Oberlin, I fell in love! Joey and I met during orientation and have now been together for almost four years. Big thanks to Oberlin for introducing us!
Through my relationships and discussions in college, I came to new understandings about my country, my own identity, and the radical changes that I know society needs. I’ll carry that growth with me in the world, approaching people with my heart wide open and ready to learn.
So what comes next? I’m not sure. Mitch Albom wrote in Tuesdays with Morrie (a personal favorite), “The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” Cultivating tender relationships, building community, and creating art that matters: that’s what I’ll be doing with my life, as I did at Oberlin. I haven’t quite worked out the details, but they’ll come. I’m living at home in Northern California for a few months before moving to Los Angeles to pursue work in media. My dream is to spend my days making documentaries, TV shows, and podcasts, writing as much as I can, and committing myself fully to social justice in all forms.
Oberlin was the first place I created a home outside of the place where I grew up. I’m really nervous to start again. Through the transition, I’m keeping my loved ones close. The day after graduation, after a long hug at the airport, my mom Heidi held my hands in hers. “Look at the beautiful life you created at Oberlin,” she said, smiling. “If you did it once, you can do it again.”
When I first arrived at college, I was pretty scared. I recognized few faces around campus. I found myself pretending to see people I knew from home everywhere. Someone with brown hair at the coffee shop, face turned away, was my best friend from home, ready to come over at any moment. The woman waiting in line for the bathroom looked like my aunt, if I squinted a little. The dude in my Spanish class was an acquaintance from high school, who I knew would have my back if I needed him. Soon, I replaced these imagined glimpses of home with real Obies, recognizing the faces around me. Knowing that they would catch me if I fell.
On graduation day, I walked across the stage and smiled out into a sea of my friends, my beautiful Obies, my community cheering me on. The faces that I’ll now pretend to see wherever I go, whenever I need a burst of confidence and a reminder that there are many people who love and support me.
In Oberlin, I found a home that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you so much for reading this blog and coming with me on this wild journey. To my sweet Obies, thank you for seeing me, for teaching me, for loving me just as I am. Lots of love, Oberlin. I’ll see you later.
Responses to this Entry
Hello! I'm a prospective Oberlin student from the same area as you (about 1/2 hour from Sebastopal) and I was wondering, as I write my "Why do you want to go here?" essay for my application what experiences and interests led you to choose Oberlin as your dream college? And what made Oberlin different for you than any other liberal arts college?
Posted by: Sophia Bartolotta on September 11, 2019 3:34 PM
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