I graduated University a week ago.

I graduated a week ago.

Someone gave me a degree.

I’m now a University graduate.

I graduated University a week ago.

Maybe if I say it enough it will feel real?

I had two ceremonies as I was enrolled in a smaller University/College that was affiliated with the University of Waterloo.

I’m a UW Alumni (or is it Alumna? I didn’t take Latin).

I had two ceremonies. I walked across a stage in my 5″ blue stilettos twice. I was given a class ring, and a degree that’s sitting on my bookshelf. I chatted with the Chancellor (twice) and got pictures with my favourite professor. I listened to so many speeches. I wore a long shapeless gown twice in unbearable (Ontario) heat. I sat beside a close friend from high school, making jokes and staring at a broken clock.

I did it twice. And it still doesn’t feel real.

I assume that by writing all this down – by working through my thoughts – maybe I can acknowledge in a timely fashion that I graduated.

I should be happy, excited, and proud.

At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me. I should looking forward to my next steps – my next journey.

In reality, I wake up every morning and stare at my four month school calendar and worry that I still have an essay to write even though classes finished two months ago.

I think, in reality, I’m just ignoring these feelings, this acceptance of finishing such a monumental event.

My cousin and I are the only two in our family to have University degrees. We graduated a day apart. We did it, dude!

Maybe if I say it enough it will feel real.

There were two moments – one at each ceremony – where the acknowledgement of what I have done threatened to consume me.

An offhanded “You should be proud of yourself” brought tears to my eyes.

I blamed the heat I was suffering through.

A booming “Here are your 2017 graduates” had me choked up. I swallowed, made a stupid snarky remark, and followed my friend across the stage.

I am proud of myself.

Holy hell am I proud.

I have worked so hard to get where I am. I paid for all of my own education. I worked as many as three jobs at once. I didn’t really have a social life for a long time, yet I still have a handful of friends I would do absolutely anything for. Anything.

I didn’t network in the traditional sense. I stuck my nose in my books and only came up to accept a praise on an essay I had written a few days before because my perfectionist ass wouldn’t sit down and write it until I absolutely had to.

I discovered so much about myself, the world, and our future.

My heart grew and then I hardened the outside so no one would know just how deeply I care.

My mental health suffered drastically and then I did something I never thought I would do – I got help. I reached out, asked for help, and then ran with it as my new mission.

I made it through four years.

I made it through nearly $40,000 of school fees. I made it through terrible courses with great professors, and great courses with terrible professors. I made it through essays. I made it through frosh week (barely). I made it through a couple of fails and low marks. I made it through two more seasons on a competitive dance team. I made it through eight different jobs. I made it through probably a hundred books. I made it through twice as many essays. I made it through the rough times and the oh so good times. I made it through 3am essay-writing sessions. I made it through classes I barely went to. I made it through expensive meals on campus, and this new iced coffee addiction that is making me jittery as I type this. I made it through friendship ups and downs, and came out with my long-term best friend and a best friend that I can’t believe I met only in third year.

I made it through University.

I am so proud.

Writing this all down is helping, but more than that, is a conversation I had with Jess.

My best friend who still has one more year left. My best friend who isn’t living ten minutes away anymore, but I can’t be too mad because I’m moving across the country in a few months. My best friend who isn’t super mushy, but who texted me all week telling me she was proud of me until I told her I was proud of me too.

She wished me luck.

She told me I looked great.

She told me she was proud and couldn’t believe I had graduated.

She told me she was proud of me for getting into Grad School.

She told me “You made it!” She told me she couldn’t “get over how amazing and exciting it is!”

When I didn’t have the words, when I couldn’t find it in myself to acknowledge what was happening, or to be proud of myself, she did it for me.

She told me again and again how big of a deal this was until I believed her.

I succeed. And I should be proud. I am proud.

I earned a Bachelor degree in four years at one of the top Universities in the country. I graduated not only with distinction, but on the Dean’s Honour List. I got accepted into a graduate program that only accepted 12 people. I got in on a scholarship. I’m not in a ridiculous amount of debt. I was the first one in my family to tackle University. I have amazing references. I have great relationships with many of my professors (though only one stands out as being there the whole time).

I know there are a few people who are jealous of my success. I know there are people who don’t believe I had to work hard. There are people who believed my nonchalance attitude, and couldn’t understand why I was ever worried because I had “everything going for” me.

No I don’t.

My success was not handed to me.

I am not naturally smart – I’m actually quite stupid. But I worked hard, and I took detailed notes, and I retained the knowledge, and I studied something I was passionate about.

I am not in debt because mommy and daddy paid for my school. I did. I worked multiple part-time jobs while in school, and then full-time on top of that every summer.

I wasn’t always on the Honours List. I pushed myself – maybe too hard at times. I worked my way there.

I am not an outgoing and friendly person by first impression. I am not an easy friend. You have to work to earn my trust and I have to work to get people to stick around.

I did not apply to Grad School and get in right away. I waited 8 months, never really knowing where I stood. I sent weekly emails to make sure they knew my name.

My success wasn’t handed to me. I worked for it.

I graduated University a week ago.

I am so proud.

 

-Red Hot

 

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