We did it. I did it. Twenty years of formal education, four years of college, a blink of an eye, and all of a sudden I found myself proudly turning my white and Carolina blue tassel toward the left of my cap which, joined with those of my friends all around me, filled grey Kenan Stadium in with the color of the sky. I did it with a smile on my face, tears in my eyes and beautiful people at every side. I am truly blessed.
We did it right. We’ve used these last few weeks of final-less finals to make the most of every single second we had left. Countless blue cups and days on the porch at Bob’s, lunches and dinners out everywhere, a wonderfully hazy LDOC, an equally hazy Cinco de Mayo, one final round of Zac Brown, the Bell Tower Climb, a trip to Asheville, an exploration of Beaufort and Shackleford Banks to watch wild horses roam and play, Senior Bar Golf, Fridays on the Porch, a private yoga lesson with Hollie, my favorite teacher over these last four years, our favorite bars every single night no matter how tired or hungover we were and four graduation ceremonies to cap it all off. It was a jam-packed and wonderful few weeks.
I’m grateful. Carolina is a school that I am proud to call home and a community of which I am proud to be part. Student, parent, visitor or citizen, you come to Carolina and you fall in love. It is extraordinarily beautiful but the magic of Carolina is in its energy. It’s easy to believe that this place is a slice of heaven because down here, happiness is contagious and love for this place abounds, exuding from everything and everyone that inhabits it. Chapel Hill, I will miss you dearly.
It all feels weird. I have learned so much over these last few years and I have grown exponentially as a person. My four years at Carolina have been among the most challenging of my life but also the most transformative. From this point forward, I will look back as a recent grad who is proud of the person she has become, of the person Carolina has so carefully crafted. I have been educated by the University of the People, a Public Ivy, and the nations first public university with degrees in public policy and journalism and mass communications. I have endlessly been encouraged to move forth in the world by changing it. Carolina has equipped me with the necessary tools, network and values that it takes to be the global citizen I want to be and while my future is, for the first time, open ended, I feel confident in the foundation I have studied and worked so hard to build that will serve as my launching pad into the real world.
Even so, my true legacy lingers in the memories of my peers. It’s always the people, no matter how great the place – a lesson I’m grateful to have learned so early in life. They are and have been my very favorite part of Carolina. I sat at He’s Not two nights ago looking around the crowded bar, drinking in the features of each face I might never again see. My best friends will be pieces of my life forever, of that I am not concerned, but the thought of never again seeing all of the others who have shaped my college experience was difficult. Each and every one of them is a part of the Chapel Hill I love so much. It is they who have made my classes fascinating and my nights exciting, the games exhilarating and campus so vibrant and it is so truly sad to say goodbye.
But the day has come and it is time. It feels a little bit as if I’m in free fall with no control over the forces driving me forward, expelling me from the life I’ve known for four years and shooting me into uncharted territories. While I’m not yet sure of where I will land, I know that I have graduated with great friends holding my hands, an incredible family so proud and supportive and the best four years of preparation I could have hoped for.