Graduation weekend lasted from Thursday night through Sunday afternoon but it felt like it lasted all of 7 minutes. The weekend was spent constantly running, taking photos, fixing hair, giving hugs and trying to hold onto every moment for just a second longer.
I originally hadn’t planned on walking in my graduation. I technically graduated five months ago in December and felt no need to backtrack just to walk across the stage on the football field. But because of my parents insistence, I gave in and decided to participate. I would now like to take this small Internet space to publicly thank them again. It was the best ending to a college career I could have asked for. And even though I didn’t realize it until after, I needed closure from the place I called home for four years.
I spent the majority of my junior and senior years at Chapman distancing myself from the school. I spent far more time in LA than I did at Chapman and was more than ready to cut my ties with my Orange County campus. I took the beauty and environment for granted and only realized that on Thursday night at the champagne toast when I had the epiphany that this would be the last weekend I would ever spend in Orange. I would no longer have a reason to come back here. My friends would all be gone, my classes were long finished and my college career would finally be wrapped up with a nice little bow and complimentary alumni license plate frame.
The entire weekend I told myself I wouldn’t get emotional. I wanted to focus all of my energy into soaking up every single moment I had with the people around me because I knew no matter how hard we tried, what we had at Chapman could never be replicated. Even if you brought back the same people to that same campus it wouldn’t feel the same. We would never again feel how we felt in those four years together.
One of my best friends graduated Friday night, another early Saturday morning, I graduated Saturday afternoon and the last two were Saturday evening. It was 24 hours filled with happy screams, frantic hugs and enough pictures to fill the walls of my entire apartment. My family came down and I had a great time hanging out with them all weekend and finally introducing them to some of the people who became my Orange County support system over the years.
As Saturday wound down I started to get inside of my own head a little too much. I started over thinking everything I had done in the past four years. Did I take advantage of enough things while in Orange County? Did I do everything I wanted to do? Did I meet the right people? Did I let myself truly enjoy Chapman? Did I get everything that I wanted out of Chapman? Thoughts continued to swirl around and around and around until I finally had to make myself shut it down and stop thinking. Why was I doing this to myself on the last day that I had all of these people in the one place where everything began four years ago? I wanted to enjoy the moments I had with them instead of dwelling on everything else.
Saturday night was the last time all of us made the walk into the circle together, bought a round of drinks together, took stupid pictures together on campus, went to a house party together, laughed on the streets at 2am together. It was one of those nights where you want to freeze every single moment and slow it down because you know you’re fighting a losing battle against the clock. You only have a few hours, a few minutes, a few seconds left with these people, in this city where it all began four years ago. You wish you had taken better advantage of every other day and every other night that you were together because you never really knew what you had in those moments until you’re looking back on them.
2am rolled around and I finally broke down when one of my best friends had to go home in an attempt to sleep before her flight back to New York the next morning. This was it. This was the last goodbye from the very kitchen where we spent the majority of our senior year sitting on the shitty white chairs talking about anything and everything. Maybe our Chapman experience didn’t turn out to be exactly what we had envisioned it to be four years ago when we moved into the dorms, but I wouldn’t trade what it morphed into for anything. The friendships I formed came about organically. I never did sorority, I never did clubs and I only played sports for one season freshman year. My strongest and longest relationships came from people who lived near me freshman year and a very slim few from my classes. I didn’t go searching for these people, by some twist of fate we were placed near each other and left to see if we could make it work. You can’t force those kinds of relationships. They either work or they don’t; and for some reason mine did.
For the past three years I have constantly questioned whether I made the right choice in choosing Chapman. This weekend reminded me why I am so very glad that I did. There’s one main reason that has the veto power against any shadow of doubt in my mind that I possibly made the wrong choice. Without Chapman, I wouldn’t have any of my best friends. Even if I didn’t meet them directly through Chapman, that school was the vessel that lead to every other decision I’ve made in the past four years whether that be work, internships, living arrangements, anything. So without Chapman, I wouldn’t have any of them. I owe a hell of a lot to that little school in Orange because it gave me the people who became my everything.
Thank you Chapman for giving me these people who I love with my whole heart, who I can’t live without and who make me better every day. Thank you for giving me space to grow. Thank you for letting me be my own person. Thank you for being the vessel that begins the journey that all 20-something must start, the journey to finding yourself.