The speeches are over and the caps have flown into the air and fallen on the ground, in the excitement and hubbub of thousands of college graduates cheering at their graduation ceremony. I’ve hugged about thirty people already and said “Congratulations!” to too many people to count, and now we are being shepherded out of the auditorium, out of the last place and last time we were officially students and undergraduates, into the blazing heat of Florida summer and adulthood.
“Hey, kiddo!” said my older sister as she envelopes me in a hug. Count: thirty-one. “Congratulations, you’re officially a graduate!”
I grinned back at her, and hugged the rest of my family in procession: grandparents, mother, my sister (again), my boyfriend and other friends who I see. Everyone is cheering and taking pictures with bouquets of red roses and lilies, diploma holders and lopsided caps. Even the school mascot has made an appearance, and there’s a mad dash to be at the front of the line. The smell of freshly roasted coffee and iced vanilla cake immediately attract my senses as a huge family walk past me, talking excitedly to one another about dinner plans and opening presents and eating their celebration cake. Smart plan.
The clear blue sky is dotted with a few white fluffy clouds but there isn’t much time to reflect on the great accomplishment of the day, the fact that I had just graduated from college, as one of my best friends drags me over to wait on line to return our gown, before being heralded back to eat dinner with my family.
“Have fun at dinner, I’ll see you later!” my friend calls after me as she rushes off with her family for her own plans of dinner.
I walk back to the warm embraces of my family, the smiles and laughter of the rest of my graduating class fading behind me. It’s so strange, how one part of your life can suddenly come and go. Today, it was the day of my graduation and the last day of my undergraduate career. Now I can look forward to 40+ hour work weeks, or if I go to graduate school 40+ hour weeks of studying. I’d been worried about moving away and leaving my friends behind, but I realize that they’re going to be there next to me through everything.
I close the door of the gray sedan and my grandfather drives us to one of my favorite restaurants: The Cheesecake Factory. My family talks and they’re bringing up memories of me as a little kid winning award contests and thinking about my plans for the future. I realize that as long as I have my family here with me, everything will be ok. I’m graduating into an economic market that’s not ideal, but, as I start my chicken parmesan and laugh at a comment my sister said, everything’s going to be alright, because I’m surrounded by family and friends.