Perhaps the remainder you are somewhere along the journey, experiencing another first day as you have had so many times before, you are a pro at this by now, the seasoned veteran biding their time until being unleashed on an unsuspecting world, degrees in hand. I remember all those firsts too, but now I have finished my journey as a student in higher education and I have the indescribably luxury of hindsight on the experience as a whole, and I am brought to tears as I recall the memories and recognizes the growth.
Admittedly I have struggled at times with the anxiety that comes from no longer being in the education system, I spent seven long and at times excruciating years struggling through, so when it all ends, it’s not cathartic, it’s panic inducing. There is so much potential out in the world and a college education is the price of admission to much of it, your degree should mold your mind to be something better than what it was before, a reservoir of critical thought and empathy. You should not be here to learn facts to recite at a later date, you must understand that the purpose of gaining an education is to become an intelligent and capable problem solver. Find a way to make the skills you learn in each class applicable to your daily life, if not, you are wasting your time, I never took a class I couldn’t learn something useful from.
As I write this, I am sitting in my office where I work as a newly hired attorney, I took a moment to look around at my surroundings. I paused my gaze on my diplomas and took a moment to re-read them, reflecting on the journey to earn them and what these documents represent. The power entrusted to me by the State in which I live by virtue of those diplomas is overwhelming and I would never have been qualified for such trust had I not endured my journey as you all are doing now.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, my graduation and commencement were canceled as everyone else’s had, it was an absolutely gut-wrenching consequence. I had been looking forward to walking across the stage in my doctoral robes hearing my name, I had planned to feel that “release” to officially allow my “ending” to be at that point but as we know fate had other plans.
I wanted to experience that symbolic release so I could transition into my new life with the incredible totality the perspective my education provides. I went to the woods near my home and sat on a log on the shore of the Willamette River, I closed my eyes for the last time as a student and listened to the placid world around me, I thought about everything that had happened along this path, the friends I made, my struggles and triumphs, the stress, elation, fear, joy, the growth all had been staggering. I reflected on the changes I’d undergone, intellectually, philosophically, spiritually, physically, and emotionally, I remembered the birth of children, the weddings of friends, the deaths of my precious son while in undergrad and my sweet mother my second year of law school and what this would have meant to them. I closed my eyes as tightly as I could in a failing attempt to stem the flow of hot tears down my cheeks as I began to recognize the new person I had grown to become, extinguishing any doubt that I am worthy of this accomplishment. I felt the elation and release, worthy of my dreams at last. I whispered a silent “thank you” into the ether and opened my eyes to a brand new world ready to begin again, this time as a lawyer.
I did it, you can do it too. Per adua ad astra.