Wednesday, April 25, 2012

on graduating (to cohort 76).


I am on the cusp of graduating, so close I can almost touch it. It feels unreal, to be honest. I don't feel like I have any business graduating, as I still feel like the 18-year old I was when I first started college. My first couple years here were tough. I felt very much like a stand in to a life where I didn't belong. It feels sad to type that now and I wish I could give my freshman self a big hug and tell myself everything will be okay, because it is now.

I started my core education courses at the start of my junior year in college. Our program is set up so that you take classes with a cohort, which is just an odd and fancy way of describing a small group of students who take all their academic courses together. There were 25 of us. I was nervous on that first day because I knew I would be spending a great deal of time with these people and I really, really needed them to be my friends. Why? Because I didn't have many. There, I said it. I had one or two really great friends and other than that, I felt like a girl out at sea all by herself. That's really, truly what I felt like.

(Disclaimer: I had great friends at home, but they lived far from my school, so I felt lonely. They still offered me a world of support, though. And Jeffrey was a lovely support, too. He really was.)

On top of that, I had a big band aid on my face from a little spot I had to have removed a few days before. On my face. On the first day of courses with people I did not know, but would be spending a great deal of time with for the next two years. I'm not sure exactly what I thought was going to happen, but I guess it was something like these people won't like me because I have a band aid on my face, which is really dumb now that I think about it. Anyway, sometimes we're irrational as human beings and I can't explain my thought process, but there you have it. A band aid on your face means you will not have friends, no questions asked.

Well, a sweet and kind person (named Lucie) proved me wrong right from the get-go. She sat down next to me, and is it too unbelievable to tell you that right then and there I knew we were going to be forever friends? Because I knew it, folks, I really did. Who knows what we were talking about, but does it matter because HELLO, THERE WAS SOMEONE TALKING TO ME EVEN THOUGH I HAD A BAND AID ON MY FACE!?!! So, my theory about the human-repellant band aid was blown clear out of the water immediately, and then a lovely, curly-headed girl (named Jenn) joined us as well, and she was sweet as pie, too. (I knew education was the best major there ever was, Amen.)

And I am here to tell you that it just kept getting better. These people liked me! They cared about things I care about! They were interested in my life, my opinions, what I ate for lunch! They really, truly were. And it wasn't just the two girls that befriended me on that very first day (although we are still the best of friends and for that I am truly thankful), it was the entire cohort; all 25 of them! I kid you not, these were all nice and kind and gentle people who cared about me and not about the band aid living on my face.

All this nonsense about band aids is simply to say that I am mere weeks from graduating with a degree in education and all of the people who have gone through this program with me probably don't know just how much their friendship meant (means!) to me.

Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

They changed my life and I mean that with every fiber of my being. What it all comes down to is this: If you feel excluded or left out or like an outcast simply because you have not found your niche, please do not worry or think it has anything to do with you. I am here to tell you that you will find like-minded people and they will remind you that humanity is good, that friendships are strong and beautiful, and that it is unacceptable to be anyone but yourself.

So, thank you to Cohort 76 for the love and support you have offered me over the last two years and the love and support you will continue to offer in the future. You have meant more to me than I could ever express and you will go out into the world, teach with all your hearts, and you will make a difference. And if you ever feel discouraged or small, please remember that you have already made a world of difference in one person's life — mine.

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