After getting about thirty minutes of sleep and rushing off to Culpepper’s at 8:15 a.m., I dashed off to the maintenance building for our 9:15 a.m. line up.
As I gathered my cap, gown, stoles, cords, and pins, I couldn’t believe that I was actually graduating. I was just concerned about being there on time and making sure that my hood laid flat instead of making me look like a nun. As I ran down to line up, I ran into several friends along the way.
Katie…I think you’re missing something…
We all lined up behind Kimball – all 694 of us – in alphabetical order. The Honors students walked first, so I was sixth to graduate. Sorry about that, family.
And then, after we had all lined up (only one senior showed up late, if you can believe it), we started to move toward Fitton Field.
That’s a lot of students.
We waited for a bit, and then we were told to move. The faculty flanked our entrance, and they started cheering for us as we walked through. Professors Manoussakis, Mulrooney, Matlak, Perry, and Oser cheered for me as I walked by. Then, before we all knew it, “Pomp and Circumstance” started playing, and Dean Freeman led our class in to Fitton Field.
That’s a lot of people.
As we walked in, the crowd started cheering for us. None of us had any idea where our parents were, so we all just started randomly waving. I felt like the Queen of England or something since I was just randomly waving. We all found our seats (I was Row 1, Seat 6), and then the faculty proceeded in after the students. As he was walking to his seat, Professor Mulrooney hugged me. That’s when the tears started. The ceremony really began when the Holy Cross red-tailed hawks (unprovoked) soared over Fitton Field. It was actually an awesome way to begin the ceremony. Then, Dean Austin read the degree in Latin (WOO HOO!), and before any of us knew it, our row was being ushered to the stage. I didn’t even have time to register what was going on. Then, Dean Freeman shook my hand, Dean Austin read my name and my honors, and Fr. McFarland handed me my diploma.
I won’t lie. I really only posted this photo because I love my shoes.
When I sat back down, I just thought to myself, “Wow. It’s really over?” I suddenly had my diploma – purple bow and all – in my hands, and I was officially an alumna. After all of the graduates walked, 694 purple and white balloons were released.
In addition to the balloons, the trucks passing by on 290 honked as they made the curve around Fitton Field. Then, my very good friend, Miriam, gave our valediction address. Her speech was honest, and yet optimistic. All of us came to Holy Cross with ideas of who we would become, and, despite our best intentions, we’re leaving as completely different individuals, but it’s for the better. She mentioned Dean Freeman’s first address to our class regarding The Omnivore’s Dilemma and how college should be enjoyed like a meal – taste all of the ingredients, recognize the work that went into the meal, and savor all of the experiences – everything from the bitter, the sweet, the sour, and the salty. Then Marilynne Robinson gave our commencement address. The English department was so excited to have her as our speaker. She opened with some unconventional words – she reassured us that the world we’re entering is, in fact, a wonderful place, and that the talents that Holy Cross has sharpened can only make it a better place. Her speech is available on the Commencement website, if any of you are interested. And then, like that, we received our final blessing, and we processed out. The walk from Fitton to Kimball was such a surreal experience. We all looked at each other and asked, “Did that actually just happen?” We had all waited for this day (well, maybe our parents did), and it just didn’t seem possible that we had graduated.
There was a gathering in the Kimball quad after graduation, and we all scrambled to find each other, professors, and our family. I will admit – I found my family and professors, but not as many of my friends as I wanted. We all took photos, said our congratulations to each other, and then ran around trying to find other people.
In case you’re wondering, the yellow stole is for the Honors Program, the red and black cords are for Sigma Tau Delta (the English Honors Society), the white hood is for my degree in the Humanities, the medal is for the Magis program, the circle pin is for being a Dana Scholar, and the other pin is for Phi Beta Kappa. The lemonade is there because I was parched.
I was able to say good-bye (more like thank you) to Professor Perry. Everyone jokes that I will become Professor Perry some day.
My family and I then had a party at O’Connor’s, an Irish pub about twenty minutes from campus. My family came from all over the US to see me graduate, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I don’t mean to get mushy, but my graduation is really thanks to them and the sacrifices that they’ve made. Paul, my Magis chaplain, and Professor Kee also made it, and some of my friends, Jake, Jordie, and Chris also attended. I think I spent my time talking with Professor Kee than speaking with my family. Whoops. But we had a great conversation. I was fine throughout all of it, but then Paul and Professor Kee said good-bye. That was the moment that I realized I wouldn’t have any more meetings with Paul. I couldn’t barge into his office and just talk about theology with him (theoretically, I can, but it’s different). I won’t be able to go into Professor Kee’s room and just talk about Julian or Flannery. That’s when I really understood that my time at Holy Cross was over. Then Jake, Jordie, and Chris said good-bye. The twins gave me a tea canister filled with Irish Breakfast tea (my favorite) and a copy of Julian of Norwich in modern English, since I only have her work in Middle English. These three boys are like my brothers, and saying good-bye to them was so difficult. I ended up crying in the middle of the restaurant (dramatic, right?). I knew saying good-bye to the people that made my life at Holy Cross so wonderful would be difficult, but I had no idea.
Yup, I look like a crying hot mess.
My family started to disperse at that point, and we needed to return to Holy Cross to pick up the last few bags in my dorm room. As we packed my last bags into the car, I looked out over my beloved campus. It just seemed unreal that I was no longer a student here. My time here had been so formative, and all of the memories flooded back into my mind. And just like that, we piled into the car with all of my stuff, and headed off to our hotel.