For seven years I’ve been composing graduation blog posts in my head.
For seven years I’ve been waiting for the day when I could say, “I struggled through chronic illness and depression, I never bought myself new clothes except for a couple times, like for a friend’s wedding, I went to four different colleges, I did whatever it took so that I could get this degree, and now I’ve achieved it.”
Maybe then I could make some meaning out of my struggle.
During my long college journey, I never questioned the struggle. When I took time off for health or financial reasons I never questioned that I would go back. When I didn’t buy new clothes because I was trying to save money, it never occurred to me that safety-pinning my underwear together so that I could afford another 1/3 of a textbook was a bad trade-off.
I just wanted to achieve something.
I wanted someone to say “wow, you did that thing. You kept at it, and you did it. Good for you.”
But there’s not always honor for the strugglers.
In the middle of this term, I found out that despite my 3.86 GPA, I wasn’t eligible to wear honor cords because I was short 3 OSU upper-division credits. That’s when my dreams of honor and recognition began to break down. The very struggle that I was so proud of powering through, the struggle that caused me to switch schools so many times, was keeping me from being honored.
I’ve met so many brilliant strugglers in college. People battling homelessness, mental illness, discrimination, people working multiple jobs, people who had to skip class because their children got sick, and I’ve rarely seen them get honored. Many of them never even graduated.
And then I questioned why I was doing it. If it was worth it. If it was just a stressful, expensive, thankless venture.
And I concluded that maybe it is. But as much as my human heart wanted the honor, I was never in it for the honor.
I was in it, as silly and cliche as this may sound, because I desperately wanted to learn.
Professor Covington, during my first term of university ever, told me that a liberal arts education was valuable because “it is worth it to know what you don’t know.” And I deeply believed it.
I still believe it.
And as I sat on the football field with 4,000 other graduates today, I wiped a tear away, overwhelmed with a deep sense of thankfulness.
Thank you, Oregon State University, for giving me a chance to learn.
Thank you Bridgewater College, thank you Linn Benton Community College. Kind-of-thank-you-but-also-kind-of-good-riddance, University of Oregon.
And thank you, Oregon State University.
And Go Beavs.