Last night, I officially moved my tassel from the right side to the left. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in English from the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences.
I’m not sure how I feel about this.
For the past few weeks, I’ve halfheartedly sorted my life into boxes, finished up coursework, and painted my room back to a sterile white, reminiscent of a hospital. It’s been bittersweet – knowing that the life I’ve come to love, the one that I’ve built up over four years with such precision and intention, is about to change completely.
I went through the standard graduation motions, took photos in front of Sanford Stadium and threw my hat in the air; showed my family around campus and teared up as I passed by years of memories; met up with new friends and old friends to metaphorically say goodbye, although I know there’s no expiration date of May 13, 2011 stamped across the friendship. It’s just a matter of moving forward into the next chapter – the life that I’ve established is certainly not over, it’s lending itself to the person I’ve become today, the one that’s about to face the world head on and hopefully make a difference. Our commencement speaker, while not the most fitting for a college graduation ceremony, made the following comment to us:
I hope that in the end you will do something that you don’t see the results of the next day, if ever…Do something in your life that will last.
I love that and, out of the fear of a wasted life, I promise to live by that. The reason I include all of this sap on my travel blog is because, while I love the feeling of departing, the feeling of returning is just as strong. For the past four years, Athens has been my home – but to you, I would like for it to become a destination. If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch the Dawgs play between the Hedges, find one. Even if you’re a Florida fan. There’s something special about the artsy little town of Athens, complete with students from every walk of life and displaced hippies that have stayed on well past their prime. It has an atmosphere that just cannot be pinned down. There’s the music that inspires the culture, from REM to The Whigs. The traditions that bind students, from walking through the Arch (which I accidentally did the day before graduation – four years without defying that tradition and I screw it up on the very last day!) to calling the Dawgs at every given opportunity, whether socially appropriate or not. Finally, there’s just this community that fosters the growth of its citizens in a way that’s truly unique – Athens encourages individuals to think outside of the box and to reach for more than you ever thought you were capable of. Maybe you won’t find that on a quick weekend trip, but you will find an incredible array of culture, art, and food. My friend Jason Hafford (@Jhaff) gives some great pointers about this wonderful place on his blog, Dawg Trekking, and I encourage you to check out the post “Athens, I Love You.”
My message today stems from a heart in transit – it’s the story of my blog and the story of my life – caught in between the past four years, as wonderful as they were, and looking forward to the next, as mysterious as they are. Last night, I had a small breakdown in my room. I heard my parents warning Pelon, one of my best friends, to tread cautiously with my emotions. “I’ll go clean up that mess,” I heard him say. Then, in his bear-like fashion, he grabbed me up into a hug and said (I’m paraphrasing because it was hard for me to hear through my own sniffles), “Ep, it’s like you’ve been crouching at a starting line for the past four years, you’re just so close to taking off and you can hear everyone saying, ‘Go, go, go!’ and now is your time to do that. Now’s your time to run.”
Who’s ready to run with me?