Ironically, UCA was the last plan on my list. I had a heart for travel. I wanted to spend my days exploring the abandoned theaters of Venice, helping village kids carry water from African wells and waitressing on the beaches of the Cayman Islands.
Education appealed to me and experience and culture seemed like an excellent teacher. The only education college seemed to offer was wasted years of sitting in classrooms and an endless workload of pointless assignments.
I went anyways, struggling to do what I believed was the responsible thing. And still, that idea of college makes me want to run away and never look back.
However, in a few weeks, I will walk across a stage and receive a piece of paper with the experience behind it matching nothing of my previous expectations.
College has breathed life, love, community and wisdom into the shell of the human I once was. Looking back on myself as that lost freshman, I could never regret these past years and the priceless experiences it has given me. I would never want to be forever in my pre-college stage.
These years have been full of the happiest moments of my life. College did not stunt my need to travel, but allowed me to go around the world twice. I have learned how to love well and deeply. I have connected my ideas intimately with people that are worlds different from me. I have gained the endless energy-giving purpose that now drives my life. I have found people that started out as friends that I now count as closer than family.
It goes not without saying that college comes with a backlash of experiences. Ignorance lost its bliss as I consequently have seen the downfalls of human nature. I have fought my own ideals and constructs. I have held friends as they cried over people that hurt them. My friends have held me as I watched my world crumble before me.
I have seen my perspective of the world exponentially grow. I have experienced truth. I have questioned the system, society and what made me believe what I believe. I have held on to ideas and let some transform into new philosophies.
I have replaced a shadowy picture of what I once knew of life with beginning glimpses of a brilliantly colored masterpiece marbled with the joy and sadness of a full existence.
So many things could be said of the last four years of my life, I will spend the next 50 writing about them. Among the many more important words I could write presently, gratitude is beyond the rest.
My friends and family are everything. Thank you for making my life beautiful and full. Thanks to my teachers that were so passionate about what they taught I couldn’t help but share their love. Thanks to my leaders that so diligently worked to give those under them the opportunities we ignorantly didn’t know would change our lives, but you did. Thanks to those who poured into my life as more than just an obligation, but out of love. My life is better because of you.
To be surrounded by so many who give so selflessly is something of admiration. You have not only touched my life, but many more. When I begin this next stage of life, as an intimidated new graduate, a traveler, a friend, a counselor, a co-worker, a peer, I will look to your example of ambition, love, genuineness, generosity, optimism and strength to reflect.
For this continually nomadic heart, it is something significant that those in my life have given me a reason to stay. Under your example, hopefully I will become a future home for others as well.