The girlfriends. The summer internships. The first time I got punched in the face. I had a crazy time in college.
Since I graduated from Florida State a month ago, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the last 48 months of my life. I gave myself a month and a half to rest before moving to New York City to start my first job.
Since then, time slowed down and I replayed my story from being a fratty freshman to a stubbly senior.
My graduating class had something like almost 10,000 graduates altogether. The commencement ceremony ended up as a lot of hurry up and wait. They herded us in and sat us down in never-ending rows. The elegant auditorium swarmed with people and glimmered with camera flashes. An army of grads decked out in gold tassels and black mortarboards. The vibe felt overwhelmingly positive. One talented speaker after another gave us words of encouragement and inspiration. “Make positive change, go against the grain,” or something like that. Many graduates emptied their tear ducts as they walked across the stage, and some did goofy dances. Either way, everyone felt a strong sense of accomplishment filling the air.
When I walked across the stage, I felt as if they stamped my forehead with the “Brought to you by FSU” trademark. I tried not to laugh from hearing my obnoxious friends chirping with extra loud applause in the crowd. I felt like a young virtuoso when I shook President John Thrasher’s hand. But the emotions hadn’t hit me yet.
In the thick of it all—family, friends, endless handshakes—it didn’t sink in that I’d just graduated.
After all the champagne toasts and congratulations from loved ones, I had some time to myself to sit and think.
Looking back, I can honestly say I have no regrets. I grinded hard for that summer internship in Chicago and it ended up being the best three months of my life. Even though my two relationships ended, I grew stronger from the heartbreaks. The pain gave way to new happiness. Those experiences taught me how to deal with sadness and loss. My skin got thicker. Academically, I’m so glad I landed on the English major because now I know I’m on track to a career I’ll flourish in. Doing work that makes me happy taught me to never settle for something I don’t enjoy. College encouraged me to bravely strive for the things I want—and not apologize for it.
Not everything came easy though. I experienced depression and real self-doubt for the first time my freshman year. At age 18 and having independence for the first time, I didn’t know how to deal with it. Freshman year amplified my insecurities, anxiety and issues with girls and family. I felt directionless for the first two years. I changed my major three times. My three-year relationship ended with me getting slapped in the face and never hearing from her again. It took time, but I learned how to depend on people I trust.
On a lighter note, I’ll miss the little things the most.
Walking through the beautiful brick and mortar was a dream I got to live every single day. It made trekking to class in the Florida heat an adventure rather than a burden. I’ll miss the student dance troupes, whose stomps and chants could be heard a mile away, and the “Save the Clitorises” guy, whom to this day I still have no idea what he was taking a stand against. I will even weirdly miss the two campus Mormons, Jeb and Luther, who harassed me about religion (in a friendly way) every time I passed the student union.
I wish I had the opportunity to thank every person who impacted my time at FSU, but that list would extend for miles. I had a blast with the groups of friends I made along the way. I will always remember the spontaneous trip to New Orleans when Hurricane Matthew knocked out Tallahassee’s power grid; dancing on tables in Club Miami; yacht parties on Lake Michigan with the other interns; riding jet skis in Cozumel. I can’t even list all the crazy adventures (and misadventures) we all had together, but I loved every second of them. You guys taught me the importance of letting loose, laughing and having fun.
Amazing wouldn’t be a strong enough word to describe my Florida State professors in the English department.
They sparked my childlike curiosity in so many subjects and got lost in hour-long conversations about their research with me during their office hours. I am extremely grateful for the interesting relationships I developed with them and for their compendium of knowledge and wisdom they have shared with me. A few of my professors were so passionate about their work that they wrote books about it, and one even gave me a free copy: Dolly Parton, Gender and Country Music by Leigh Edwards. I consumed all her words in one day. She encouraged me that I can accomplish great things like authoring books and giving speeches around the world. All of this challenged me to become a better writer and thinker. I cherish the curiosity that drives me to become a lifelong learner, which my professors honed.
Even with the lasting challenges and timeless adversity, I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything in the world. Parents and professors constantly reminded me never to take my time in college for granted. I didn’t, and that’s what made it so great.
Now I’m here, ready to embark on a new journey with new people and new challenges. If college taught me anything, having confidence and grit trumps all.