I woke up early to go have my fiance snap a million pictures in front of all my favorite buildings and in all my favorite places. I’m an incredibly nostalgic person, so this was an extra important day. I had so many days and weeks and months of memories all built up to think about and reflect on.
I had a plan. I had started my new full-time job a few weeks earlier, just being trained until I was done with school. I was getting married in a month, and everything was going according to my schedule and timetable.
I rambled aimlessly around the campus after we’d gotten all the pictures, trying to feel like something big and life-changing was ahead. I didn’t need to try as hard as I did, but it feel nice to be a bit dramatic. I swear there were songs ringing through my head about graduation and moving forward. That’s just who I am 99% of the time.
When my parents arrived, we all met at the building where the commencement would happen. I joined my friends backstage. We snapped photos and talked about how crazy it was that we were graduating, nervously laughing and talking too loudly.
We walked to the stage and listened to speakers, who I didn’t pay attention to or recognize at all. There had been another event the previous night with a more well-known speaker for all the students, but I had just wanted to do the walk, get my diploma, and not spend any more time in long, boring events. Classy, huh?
The lights were bright but I could still identify my fiance in the crowd, sitting with my parents and beaming. It was because he was proud of me, but I joked in my head that maybe he was so happy because now he had a “sugar-mama” to get him through college.
The walk across the stage was short. I was wearing heels, but I’d mastered the art of walking in heels in the 7th grade, so I had nothing to worry about. When you’re just over 5 feet tall, you get used to wearing tall shoes early in life, because you’re always fighting to be recognized and seen.
I reminded myself to smile and glance into the audience when my name was called, I shook hands with some of my favorite professors and with some that I had never met, and then it was over.
But that walk changed everything.
Graduating from college is a huge step. It’s the end of something so incredibly significant, it’s an achievement that is insanely valuable and can only help you get where you want to go.
That walk was the end of my life as I knew it.
It was maybe 30 steps.
They were all more impactful on who I was going to become than I could have ever guessed.
That walk was the beginning of a new me, a new purpose, new types of learning.
2 years has shifted my perspective on so many things, but probably more than anything, it’s shifted what I believe about myself and what I’m capable of.
I wish I could go up to that girl who walked across the stage 2 years ago and tell her she’s about to gain confidence she didn’t realize she was missing, that she’s going to let go of caring so much what other people think, she’s going to lose friends and learn how to be OK with that, she’s going to have her plans and timetables and schedules all ruined and not have any idea what’s next, that she’s going to learn how strong she really is, and that she is about to realize who she really wants to be.
There were flowers and more pictures after The Walk. There was dinner at a fancy restaurant and more nostalgia and relief and sleeping in the next morning.
I will forever be grateful for what that walk signified, the days and months and years of hard work and exhaustion, laughter and learning.
It was maybe 30 steps.
And that walk means everything to me.