Ruminations on College Graduation

It’s a bizarre feeling to be completely done with college.
It actually took me a bit longer than my fellow graduates, because I had to fix all the citations in my senior seminar paper before I turned it in, and they were a shambles. I just hit the send button on the email containing it, however, and now it is completely, 100% official- I am done with school FOREVER.
I wrote that sentence with the aim of sounding dramatic, but honestly it doesn’t to me. That’s because it seems surreal. Truthfully that’s how much of last week seemed to me. I was doing all these things that you do in your last week of school, but it just seemed like it was all fake. I was going through the motions that someone was telling me to go through. It didn’t feel significant; I didn’t even cry at all the day of graduation. My mind just feels like, Yes, summer! See you next semester, college! And I want to say to it MIND YOU ARE WRONG IT IS OVER. But apparently, I have done school so long that my mind just can’t comprehend not doing it. So here I am, a college graduate, resembling a rudderless boat cast adrift in the stormy seas of life.
But let me go back a little, and share my week leading up to graduation.
Finals week was surprisingly easier than I expected. The way my school does it, the last week of school consists of regular class on Monday and Tuesday, and then finals are on Wednesday through Friday, just depending on what classes you have. But for various reasons, my three finals were on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so I was done early in the week. That just left me with the monster paper. I planned to spend all Wednesday night working on it, but then Oklahoma weather stepped in and we almost got smashed by a tornado in my college town. My sister and I chose to evacuate home to our parents, and I’m glad we did because my school lost power for the night. I was able to get a little bit of work done, but not as much as I would’ve liked to because we were busy being concerned over whether my car (still at college since I rode home with my sister) was going to be pummeled by hail or sucked into a twister, along with the majority of my possessions. Luckily no tornado was forthcoming, at least near my college, and my things remained unscathed. That was an enlivening way to spend a day in finals week, friends.
The next day was by far the most difficult. Thursday was my last day at the daycare I’ve worked at for the past three years. I basically grew up and matured there, and some of those kids I’ve seen grow up as well. One of my absolute favorite kids was barely one when I started working there,  and now she’s a rambunctious four year old. It’s hard to believe how much has changed within me and within my life because of that job. I had a party with the class I’ve been working with this semester, the older school age kids. We enjoyed some delicious ice cream and partied it up with paint. When the day was over, and I’d cleaned and closed down my room for the last time, I stood in the dark for a few minutes and just cried. Then I got myself together and said my goodbyes.
Thursday night was crunch time. I graduated the next day, and that meant my paper needed to be finished. I went to the library for the last time, and stayed there until they kicked me out at 2am. Then I went back to my apartment, sat down at my living room table, and I wrote the rest of my paper. I finished at around 6:15 in the morning, with a grand total of 33 pages. I didn’t know then, and I still don’t know now if those were quality pages of writing or not. My brain simply said, That’s enough. And I said, Yes, brain, whatever you say. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired before that I actually felt drunk, but when I got in the shower at 6:30, and I closed my eyes to tip my head back into the water, I started falling backwards and had to grab the wall of the shower. I literally could not keep myself upright without the structural assistance of my shower. My legs were like jelly after not moving for four hours, and I had to sit down a few times. It was a bit rough. Sadly, by the time I laid down, I was so tired that I had trouble sleeping. I snatched fiveish hours of poor quality sleep before I had to get up, and get going. I was running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done before I drove home to get ready for graduation. After that, everything started moving in fast forward. We met some of my friends and family for dinner back in my college town, but it seemed like a split second before it was time for me to get to the school so we could take pictures before graduation. Putting on my robe and cords and sashes just seemed bizarre, like I was dressing up for a part in a play. My fellow graduates and I ended up loitering around in a hallway waiting for our pictures to be taken, and I got to see a bunch of my friends. Some of them were people I had gone to school with all four years; some were new friends. But all of them seemed a part of some dream. My school does two graduations for the different types of Bachelor’s degrees, so sadly a number of my friends graduated at 6 and I didn’t get to see them, including my roommate and best friend, Tiffany. I remember thinking, gosh, I’m probably never going to see them ever again, but I just couldn’t get upset because it seemed impossible. It still does.
Actual graduation itself was strange. It was in our tiny auditorium, since we didn’t even have enough graduates to fill up the front four rows of it. Our president talked forever, and honestly, I didn’t even really listen. My sister said it was mostly about how getting a Bachelor of Arts degree was dumb, so I guess I didn’t miss out. The graduate next to me in alphabetical order was Paige Simpson, and I think the best part of graduation for us was counting how many professors fell asleep during our president’s speech. You see, all the faculty was on the stage, which we were facing, and we basically were staring at them throughout the ceremony. And lord, they were dropping like flies, and it was truly one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen. At one point I had to demand Paige stop talking because I was on the verge of exploding with laughter in the midst of our graduation because of her comments about the sleepers. A number of professors rubbed the bridge of their noses during the ceremony, the way one does when pushed nearly past all bearing by some sort of mind-numbingly unpleasant situation. One of my favorite professors looked as though his brain was simply melting out of his mouth, which was slightly agape, matching the expression of utter boredom on his face. So to the professors of my college, I salute you. You made graduation intensely more entertaining that it probably otherwise would’ve been.
When it actually came time to walk, I was in the second row. We stood up, moved to the steps to the stage, and then it was literally over almost before it happened. I handed the vice-president the card, he announced my name and that I was graduating Summa Cum Laude, I heard a roar of people cheering for me, made sure I didn’t trip or walk too fast, smiled until my cheeks hurt, and then I sat back down. And just like that, I was graduated. It was bizarre, especially compared to my high school graduation, which had between 550 and 600 graduates and took around three hours. The rest of graduation was pretty standard; they told us we were no longer students but graduates, and everyone cheered. Then, a really cool part, they announced the Outstanding Graduates from each division, and mine was first. The faculty had to all exit the auditorium before we could, so we were all smiling at them as they went down the middle aisle. I was in the second seat, and so I was really close to them when they went by. One of the highlights of my graduation was when one of my English professors, Dr. Rees (who is the unanimously acknowledged badass of the English department), saw me, and then leaned over seats and past Paige to give me a hug. She said something encouraging but I basically didn’t hear it because I was so overwhelmed with how awesome it was that she was hugging me. Then my senior seminar professor, Dr. Simpson, who is pretty much the coolest dude around and was right behind Dr. Rees, saw me and said “You better just stay there” and I got another hug.
Almost before I knew it, we were walking out. I looked for my family everywhere but never saw them in the auditorium; I met them outside. A confusing whirlwind of pictures and hugging ensued. I had so many friends and so much of my family come out to my graduation, it was simply amazing. I felt so loved and blessed from all their support and the wonderful gifts they got me. We went to a reception, and I got a hug and chatted with one of my other English professors, Dr. Rodgers. She told me that I had to call her and Dr. Rees by their first names. I told her that I could not do it. Then I ate cookies, took some more pictures, and it was over.
Just like that. Seventeen years of my life. The main purpose I strove for during the majority of my time on this planet, and suddenly, it was accomplished. Done with. I graduated college.
I guess I never realized just how much school has dominated my life. In school, I always worked hard to get good grades so I could get a scholarship to college.  I feel like I’ve often been defined by school, because I was typically one of the kids who made better grades consistently, and people tend to catch on and classify you by that. Any time we had to fill out things or do writing assignments where we talked about where we saw ourselves in the future, my answer was always, without fail, getting a scholarship to go to college. It was weird enough when I actually accomplished that, but it was lost when I thought of the years of college I had to actually get through. But now they’re gotten through.
I know graduating college is a relatively common experience. I know maybe it seems like I’m making a really, really big deal out of it. But Saturday, I had to move out of my apartment for the last time. We rushed frantically to get everything packed up and loaded by our 2pm checkout deadline. My car was stuffed; my dad had brought home a bunch of stuff earlier in the week, and my mom’s car even had a pretty large load of stuff in it. All the accumulation of four years of college, kicked out of my apartment and stuffed into three cars. The reason that this feels like such a big deal to me, I guess, is because I feel exactly like my stuff. There’s no place for me anymore at school, and now there’s all this stuff that needs a place back at my house that we’re going to have to try to find. I need a place, too, and I’m really feeling the fact that I don’t fit anymore where I’ve always fit. I’m especially scared by the fact that I have to try and find a new place to fit. I spent most of last night scouring the internet for jobs, and I came up with NOTHING. Nothing that sounds even remotely palatable to me. I simply feel lost. One of the aspects about the institution of school that I never appreciated was that it gives you something to do. It gives you  a clear, predetermined next step. I’m beginning to completely understand why some people just decide to go to graduate school- it’s like a bonus level, like Super Mario Brothers when you go down the little pipe and you just run around punching things and getting coins (from what I’ve heard, this is a similar experience to graduate school, except you spend your coins just as fast as you get them).  But I’ve always known that graduate school was not my cup of tea. I recognize that it’s time to do something else with my life, the problem just is that I don’t know what.
So this leads me to a very important question… would anyone be interested in paying me to sit at home and blog?

Stin iyia sas,

PS I used the Greek phrase for cheers, because as of now, my future is all Greek to me. Also, I wrote a post over my graduation outfit over on my bargain fashion blog, so please check that out if you’d like. Now I am going to spam you with pictures of my graduation. Enjoy:

Myself in full regalia, looking like a rainbow threw up upon me.

Myself in full regalia, looking like a rainbow threw up upon me.

My honorary sister, Kasey and I.

My honorary sister, Kasey, and I.

Myself and two of my foreign guy friends, Joel and Richie.

Myself and two of my foreign friends, Joel and Richie.

My best friend Skye... who is approximately a foot taller than me.

My best friend Skye… who is approximately a foot taller than me.

Myself and two of my former roommates, plus my dear friend Stephanie, who let me be a bridesmaid at her wedding!

Myself and two of my former roommates Becka and Katelyn, plus my dear friend Stephanie, who let me be a bridesmaid at her wedding!

My favorite picture of the night. My sister, my dad, me, my mom, and my nana.

My favorite picture of the night. My sister, my dad, me, my mom, and my nana.

Me and my Boo baby. I've had him since about first grade, so this picture was pretty special.

Me and my Boo baby. I’ve had him since about first grade, so this picture was pretty special.

Crazy Finn cat and I.

Crazy Finn cat and I.

The best card ever- it was a cat playing a piano.

The best card ever- it was a cat playing a piano.

The Importance of Bathrobes

Ladies (and perhaps some men?).
Do you ever play the weight game when you go to the doctor’s office? You know, when the inevitable moment comes and they make you step on the scale so they can record just how many reasons society tells us we have to hate ourselves. For me, I always mentally go through to try and find pounds that I feel justified in subtracting from my total.
For example, today I allowed myself to knock off at least ten pounds. I took off a few because I didn’t even remove my shoes; surely those are very heavy, I thought to myself, ignoring the fact that I was wearing fake Keds that are just a bit of canvas and plastic slapped together. I took away a few more pounds because I had on a very heavy sweater, and also for the big metal heart necklace I was wearing. I subtracted a little more because I had eaten lunch barely thirty minutes prior, and my stomach was stuffed full of delicious, unhealthy, heavy (probably) things. Finally, I deducted a few imaginary ounces because my phone was still in my pocket, and it’s really big and it has a thick, sturdy case.
Now, I have absolutely no desire to check the actual math behind these calculations because, 1) I am terrible at math and I hate it, and 2) I recognize, in my hearts of hearts, that I’m probably just a little heavier than I’d like to think I am. However, I’m healthy, fairly active, and finally coming to a place where I’m getting more comfortable with my body image. So I’ll happily incorrectly estimate weights in my head to soothe that ever nagging voice of society that says I should weigh approximately one hundred pounds, heedless of all factors such as height, body type, and BMI index.
As you all know if you’ve read my last two posts, I was essentially certain I was sick. I went by the local clinic today to confirm, and optimistically procure some medicines that would help end my coughing/nose running misery. The nice nurse ran through a list of symptoms to see if I had them, and when she asked me if I’d had any nausea, I was very quick and vehement to answer that I had not. I wanted to be very clear on that point. Let me explain why.
Last semester, Friday, December 7th to be exact, I had exactly one final standing between myself and Christmas Break. Unfortunately, in the wee hours of the morning, I became violently, excessively nauseated/ill. I will generously spare you the gory details, but from about five in the morning until two that afternoon, I was helpless to move more than five feet from a trash can/toilet. My mother had to drive all the way up to my college town, approximately forty-five minutes away, to get me and take me to the doctor.
As anyone who has had a stomach bug will know, your looks tend to be the very last thing on your mind at the time. That’s why I unashamedly stumbled into the doctor’s wearing a leopard bath robe with a bright red lining, sweat pants, and an extremely over-sized t-shirt. I’m not sure if my hair even qualified as being in a bun or not, because it was in such a transitional state between up and down that I find it hard to judge in retrospect.
The doctor came in and asked me some of my symptoms, and when I told him it was basically just intense, violent nausea and some dizziness, he got a certain look and began questioning me about delicate lady things (I’ll attempt to bury my meaning behind euphemisms here for you all). When he detected some irregularity within them, he asked me whether I might want to take a pregnancy test. I quickly reassured him that the irregularity was completely normal, actually, and there was absolutely no need for me to take a pregnancy test. He kept glancing at my mom, and he asked me repeatedly if I was sure. When I promised there was not even the slightest chance at all that I could be pregnant, he subsided, but I could see it in his skeptical eyes that he did not believe me.
On one hand, I can see how the circumstances would support his theory. On the other, I ROLLED UP WEARING A LEOPARD BATHROBE ACCOMPANIED BY MY MOTHER. I wanted to assure him that the only men interested in me were my cats and dogs (in a related note, the status I made over that was one of my most popular on Facebook, receiving an uplifting total of 68 likes and 21 comments. Perhaps some small recompense for being wrenchingly ill and subsequently embarrassed).
Thankfully, when I saw the doctor this time, and in the absence of my mother no less, he made no mention of pregnancy and seemed to have no memory of my previous visit. I attend an urgent care clinic right by my house instead of a regular doctor, so I think that helps blur my patient history in his mind. The whole consultation didn’t take more than five minutes, and he simply prescribed me some routine medicine for the sinus infection I had, the most common and repeated diagnosis that plagues the Rowe family.

This evening, we went to my Nana’s house, an easy task as she lives next door to us. My Nana is one of the most wonderful and loving people I have ever met; she’s also one of the hardest-working, stubborn people I know, and she’s spoiled my sister and I shamelessly for our whole lives. It’s been very hard lately, because my Papa, her husband of fifty-two years, died last July. To say she was devastated is an understatement. But, in a way I know my ornery Papa would approve of, it has helped bring us even closer to her and allowed us to spend more time together and finally, finally allowed us to make her let us spoil her back. Tonight, I ate a large, tasty dinner and two pieces of dessert pizza, and let me tell you I don’t even care and I was not the slightest bit ashamed. Do yourself a favor, if you have never had Papa Murphy’s cinnamon dessert pizza, go out right now and buy one and devour it because OHMYSWEETDELICIOUS.
Sitting on the couch by my Nana, I was feeling that food coma euphoria and, combined with the slightly drugging effects of my freshly prescribed medicines, I was getting very drowsy. It seemed only natural to lay my head down on my Nana’s lap while we watched the OKC Thunder (THUNDER UP WOOOOOO WE BEAT THE MAVS TONIGHT!!!!) game. She just brushed one hand over my hair and held my hand with the other; she was sitting in the seat on the couch that my Papa always used to sit in. I was warm and full, and she was wearing the robe she’s had since longer than I can remember, navy blue with red stitching, that I used to put on and promenade around in when I was a little girl, with the bottom dragging behind me like a wedding train because I was so small and she has always been very tall.
In that moment, I was reminded of something very important. I’ve admittedly been very stressed lately, wondering what I’m going to do with my life, both right after graduation and in the long run. I’ve experienced this sense of aimlessness and doubt that writing and the world it entails is really what I’m meant to be doing, and I’ve desperately been trying to make sense of what I’m supposed to accomplish with my life. Lying there, head in her lap, I was reminded of the plain fact that every single moment I experience is my life. There’s not some great objective or goal I have to accomplish for my life to have meaning; no particular moment in my life will last any longer or shorter than another, even if it feels like it, and I can appreciate each one for simply being what it is: my life. Maybe I don’t know for sure what every aspect of my future will look like, but I do know what right now looks like. And at that particular “right now,” my cheek registering the familiar feel of my Nana’s robe and the clasp of her soft, work-worn hand in mine, my life was a few moments of peace.
It was an important moment in the crazy commotion of my last semester of college, but also for the entirety of my life. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s easy to lose sight of. But I am trying to remember that every moment is one to be grateful for, just as I’m grateful to you for reading my blog!

Guten Abend,

PS Tonight I go with the German words for “Good evening,” a tribute to my Nana, whose maiden name was Pankratz and whose grandfather spoke German!