Famous last words: Farewell to the Class of 2013

I did not graduate this past weekend; but I still felt very something about the timestamp.  Likely because it was with this class that I began my own program. Two years ago I graduated from my own Masters program, fretted over the hood, decorated my cap, planned gatherings with friends and family, participated in the whole event that graduation becomes.  Two years ago approximately 30 days after my graduation I moved to San Diego with about $300 dollars in my name and two suitcases of clothes, books, pictures, life.  I knew not a soul and I wondered what the heck I’d gotten myself into.
A week after I moved I started working, up in the Dean’s office which I often called “The Quiet Room,” appropriately titled during the hushed summer months.  Wilting from the lack of conversation and engagement, I was ecstatic when I was told I could attend graduate assistant training with the student affairs/soles collaborative (SASC) cohort. I wasn’t thinking about the divide between our programs or courses of study, I was thinking–now I’ll have people.
It was there that I made my first friends in San Diego. The group grew from that especially after our LEAD 550/600 class where we got to meet every new student in the department, but never did my connectedness to the cohort feel severed. Not until I severed it.  I began to make an intentional effort to branch out with more doctoral students. Because I knew they would be leaving, because I knew the doc students would be staying, a very tiny bit because we had more in common course-wise, but mostly because I am really really bad at goodbyes.
So when I looked through my pictures of the weekend and I don’t have any with my “first friends” I feel mixed feelings. I wanted it to be about them. Their day, their celebration, their cohort of classmates. Yet, I also feel a bit sad that I allowed any of that to matter to the extent that it did.  Above all, though, I am grateful for the moment that is right now where I am putting all of the sadness aside to get to the point of the story.
To the Graduating Class of 2013,
Do not allow your fears stop you from loving fully in the moment. You might get hurt. You might cry. You might fall flat on your face. Do it anyway.  Go where you are called. I am a firm believer that the little voice that lives in your gut is the voice of all-knowing and if you have an inkling to do something, it means you can, it means its in you, it means go for it. So often this voice is dismissed, called crazy, or ignored out of fear, but indulge it, and then rely on it. Think of the thing that felt IMPOSSIBLE as you stood before it, and realize that now as you look back at it, that you got through it. Usually as the result of the aforementioned pieces of advice.
Do less well.  Do you remember that Kanye West lyric, everything I’m not made me everything I am? It is one of my favorites because it helps me to not feel pressured to try and be everything. I used to think it was my responsibility to care for my friends, my family, keep everyone around me at peace–often to the detriment of my own sanity–and eventually when the dam broke and nobody died I realized I’d been working myself too hard and FOR WHAT!? Figure out what you love, what drives you, where your mind wanders off to when you have a free hour…find your passion and swim in it. Breathe it, climb it, learn its ins and outs, begin the most intimate relationship you can with it and make a vow of faithfulness and fidelity to it.  I don’t mean a thing, a job, a career, a profession because that is just the outfit that passion can* wear sometimes. I mean what is underneath it.  Find that thing, and do that. Do not become distracted by what other people are doing because everyone is in various stages of their own journey. You just do your thing, whatever it is, and do it well. I always loved the quote, If a [wo]man is called to be a streetsweeper, [s]he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. [S]He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well. 
Color outside the lines. Curse the inventor of coloring books for suggesting that the lines they drew were the lines that mattered.  Forget what it’s supposed to look like. We all have our ideas, for instance I am sure you all had an idea of what a graduate student did. How they dressed, how much time they spent studying, where they went out, and what they did with their free time. Now that you have the world and all its possibilities (as if you didn’t before) at your finger tips, you have the ability to stretch words beyond our current comprehension and understanding of them. Just because it has always looked a certain way before doesn’t mean that is the only way it can ever look moving forward. Dare to paint a new picture.
If it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong. Now this is possibly my most “judgy” bit of advice but it is one I have absolutely found to be true in my experience. There were times when I was in class hating it wondering, am I supposed to be here? Is this the right decision? Am I competent enough to be doing this work? The answer is yes, and I knew this because the work was still calling to me, but typically it had become tedious because I’d gotten too wrapped up in coloring inside the lines. Trying to be what I thought people wanted rather than who I am. I have to constantly remind myself that love isn’t shackles, its wings, and then by finding the love and renewing my passion for my work I could then move forward with a level of ease that was previously elusive.
While I could write a personal message to each of you individually, I thought it more appropriate to acknowledge the collective that we have become and address you as such.  I did not walk this weekend, but the part of me that was you graduated as is moving on to be fearless, daring, and most of all a force of love in this world.  And so as you move forward, know that I will miss you all but that we will always exist in the walls of this place. Not the physical walls. Not the executive classroom. But in the place that we carved in all of our hearts very intentionally, unchanging and everlasting, it is and always will be our SOLES. DSC07284

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