Lessons in Grad-itude: Thoughts from a (Very) Recent College Grad

Here we are on the other side of a four year and some dollar amount education and hopefully a little bit wiser. I wanted to do some reflecting before I melt down into a puddle of exhaustion on the library couch.

First, I’m insanely privileged. This is something I didn’t recognize for much too much of my life. Growing up on the poorer side of the scale, raised in a divorced household, sometimes led me to focus too much on my places of disadvantage. But if I’ve learned anything over the last four years, it’s that your personal reality is based on where you choose to focus. So, yeah, I’m incredibly privileged.

So, I graduated from college two days ago. Let me tell you it was a long journey. I worked harder than I knew I could for the past four years. I was on financial aid all four years. I struggled with depression all four years. I, like many of us, cried myself to sleep more than a few times. But believe me when I say that I’m lucky.

I never in my four years worried that people weren’t listening to me because of my race. I never worried for my safety when I saw the police. I never felt alone in groups because there weren’t people around who didn’t share my racial background or cultural upbringing. If Carleton was difficult for me, I can’t even imagine how much more difficult it would have been to be a minority of any kind.

I had an amazing time at Carleton. I was supported by incredible professors, bosses, and friends. I found myself growing through the coursework, through my job as an RA, and through my many strange and random adventures and conversations. But I don’t want to write yet another nostalgic post that ignores the realities of many of my classmates. Just because Carleton was a supportive community for me doesn’t mean that was the universal experience. There is a lot that needs to be criticized and improved at Carleton especially in terms of race and class.

What was coolest for me on Saturday was watching my classmates walk across that stage. For my friends, I knew their stories. I saw again the scars and obstacles that they had come up against for the past four or more years, and I saw them all validated and overcome as they accepted their diplomas. For those I didn’t know, I could only be certain that they had had as many difficult and extraordinary journeys as my friends. I felt unbelievably proud of all of them (you).

There’s not a lot of things in life that are easy. Maybe nothing. And I know that the only reason I was able to graduate this Saturday was because of the help from countless people, starting with my parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and other family members. And all the teachers and professors who listened to my insecurities and pushed me to improve despite of them. And my friends who were there for me late at night when nothing else in the world made sense.

And I hope that every graduate on Saturday felt the presence of so many beautiful people in their lives.

What I’m trying to say is this:

1) College was a difficult and life-changing experience. I would not trade this experience for anything.

2) These four years were significantly easier for me in many ways from my classmates due to my white, cis-gender, middle class status. I am insanely proud of everyone who overcame the challenges put in their way by society and the institution itself. This was an amazing accomplishment for everyone, but especially for people with historical and societal tides pushing against them. Be so proud.

3) For everything that has been given to me, I am grateful. And more importantly, I know without a doubt that I didn’t deserve even a tiny percentage of what I’ve been given. It is up to me to find ways of repaying this debt to the communities I’m in and to the amazing people around me. I hope to spend the rest of my life repaying this debt.

So that’s all. I’ll be writing more in this blog now that I’m not overwhelmed with classwork and you know… graduating.

Once again and not for the last time: thank you.