May 10, 2014
Today I got to stand with my fellow classmates and turn my tassel between the hedges. I stood among classmates, project partners, people I recognized from Twitter, friends, roommates, best friends, and even my boyfriend. We cheered and barked and sang the Alma Mater together. It was bittersweet, to say the least.
All of my friends around me have had to put up with an awful lot of my moping about the impending graduation. I just couldn’t understand why people kept offering me congratulations when I felt like condolences would be more appropriate. I sat on the field and looked at the our commencement program. Commencement means “beginning”. I felt like it should say “terminal” instead.
Because, to me, this feels like the end. Every day for the past week I’ve had to hug and say goodbye to friends who know me better than anyone, not knowing if or when I would see them again. Friends who, after 4 years, feel more like family. I’ve had to leave my job and turn in building keys to the BCM and start packing up all of the stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years, as well as return all my roommates’ clothes that I’ve grown to consider my own. But even more than that, I have come to realize that, despite all the hard times, the past 4 years have truly been the best of my life. I have found myself doing things and learning things and even dreaming things I never thought I could. The opportunity here has been limitless. And after 4 years, Athens has become more of a home to me than I ever intended it to.
And now we’ve reached the end and I have felt like my dreams and passions and relationships were going to end right along with it.
And then Sarah Hughes, a member of my graduating class, walked on stage to deliver some remarks. Remarks that encouraged me and every other student who took more pictures of pouting faces than smiling faces in the graduation caps. She reminded me that today is not the end. In fact, it’s not even the beginning. It is a continuation.
“It’s a continuation of our hopes and dreams and passions.”
And I know that she is absolutely right. I cannot continue to believe that my life has peaked at the age of 22. And my life doesn’t have to end -or begin- today. It simply has to move along. And to quote Carrie Underwood (and because nothing say graduation like over-using cliches and cheesy quotes and lyrics) “sometimes moving on with the rest of your life starts with goodbye”.
My life has changed because of my time here at UGA. And I have formed a lot of deep relationships. And now I will carry them with me into the future.
So, what is the future for me, you may be wondering? After all, everyone’s favorite question is “What’s next?”
Well, next Friday I will be packing my piano into my car and driving to Tyler, Texas where I will spend the next 3 months leading worship, lifeguarding, and serving on work crew at Pine Cove Outback youth camp.
After that, I will be joining 2 or 3 other recent graduates to form the nonprofit organization, MOVE Media. Last semester, after 3 and a half years of searching for that perfect combination of education, dreams and passions, I finally decided that my “dream job” would be to use PR and Media to tell the stories of missionaries around the world. Fortunately for me, my boyfriend, Evan Simmons, began dreaming the same thing over Christmas break, independently of me. He called me and asked if I’d be interested in using media to tell the stories of missionaries in order to raise support for them…in those exact words. I told him to sign me up.
So he did. We don’t know much about business, but we know some about photography, videography, web design and public relations, thanks to the University of Georgia (hallowed be Thy name). And God has blessed both of us and our other two teammates with a heart for missions. So our desire and plan is to move stories of God’s work across borders in order to move hearts and inspire others to step up and take part in that work.
In the fall, we hope to take our first trip to wherever God may lead us. I look forward to that day.
That means moving away from Athens and leaving the life I’ve built here, but I will always carry this place and these people with me as I go into the world.
To my fellow graduates, congratulations. And remember, this is not the end. Or the beginning. It’s simply a continuation of this beautiful life. Now, I dare you to move.