Story Time: I GRADUATED

Well, this post is now three months overdue. (Sorry! I will eventually catch up. Hopefully.)

Anyway, THIS APRIL I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. And it involved four ceremonies and a lot of picture taking and I maybe burst into tears in the middle of Pizza House at the end of it all. (Warning that this post is about to be a billion words long. And involves me being at my melodramatic height. I’m mostly putting this up for posterity’s sake, so totally don’t feel obligated to read it.)

I hit a couple rough patches during undergrad (who doesn’t), but overall I adored my time at U of M. And I am so desperately sad about leaving. (Although the Ann Arbor Art Fair began yesterday, and that’s basically hell on Earth, so my opinion could be different in a few days.)

Graduation Weekend began for me, really, Thursday night. This was because after months of deliberating about what to put on my graduation cap, I managed to procrastinate actually putting the thing together until like 10:00 PM. (I am a genius.) So, while my friends all went out to celebrate our last night of undergrad, I settled in for one last assignment.

I had the TV on in the background–there was a How I Met Your Mother marathon–and I confiscated a roommate’s box of Kraft mac and cheese (because if there’s ever a time for comfort food, the night before you graduate from college is it). Luckily, I’d already done a lot of the legwork for my cap earlier in the week (dyeing paper with tea to artificially age it, buying fake flowers, picking out quotes, etc.). So mostly I was just hot gluing everything on, one piece at a time. Still, it took me until midnight to finish. And, of course, in like the last five minutes I managed to drip hot wax on my wrist.

(I graduated with half of my right hand wrapped in bandages, between the burn and my squirrel bite and a couple who-even-knows-where-these-came-from injuries. Remember: if I can make it through college, anyone can.) (Also, general PSA: don’t feed squirrels, kids; it’s a bad idea.*)

In the end, my cap looked like this:

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I ended up not being able to choose between two quotes, so I used them both. The quote layered in the background is from Winnie the Pooh and reads: “‘Is that the end of the story?’ ‘That’s the end of that one. There are others.'” And the quote on top is of course “mischief managed” from Harry Potter. (I know it’s cliche, but it’s just so perfect with the block M.) Also, the white flowers on the cap are decorated with cursive writing (to symbolize writing), typescript (to symbolize reading), and music notes (to symbolize, you know, music stuff).

So, totally unnecessary backstory on the Winnie the Pooh quote: for anyone who doesn’t know, I was the publicist for a local used bookshop throughout senior year, which mostly involved me posting pictures of books to our Facebook page to try to drum up business. I liked to keep these at least somewhat timely, so during finals I gathered a big pile of children’s books for a post about graduation.

I was flipping through the shop’s copy of Winnie the Pooh in search of this other quote I adore when I randomly came across the one above. I’d been searching for the perfect quote to put on my graduation cap since like October and had never even seen this one before, so YOU HAD BETTER BET I started crying in the middle of the sci-fi/fantasy section because HOW PERFECT IS THIS QUOTE.

(I’m not a big crier, but pretty much every time I cried this school year, it happened while I was working. That poor bookshop.)

ANYWAY BACK TO THE ACTUAL STORY: Even though I was exhausted when I finished the cap and I had to be up at like 6:00 to get ready for the first ceremony, I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up for another hour or two reading the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and, you know, crying. Again. (I am a cautionary tale in what not to do during graduation weekend, if that was not already clear.)

I eventually did get to sleep, though, and the next morning Hannah and I rushed through getting ready and were only like twenty minutes late for the time my parents were supposed to pick us up to drive us over to the Crisler Center.

Our first ceremony of the day was for the Honors Program. We posed for lots of pictures before the ceremony, and met up with lots of other nervous friends, and then Graduation Weekend For Real began.

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Mortarboards are great for hiding the bags under your eyes.

People gave speeches. We walked across the stage. We posed for even more pictures.

From there, my family drove across campus to grab lunch at Noodles & Co., then we headed to the Honors Program reception, where they proceeded to stuff us with even more food. (This was unexpected, but turned out to be the rule of the weekend. I’ve been going to receptions for four years at this university and normally they serve us some fruit and maize & blue corn chips and cookies. But all of the graduation receptions throughout the weekend were catered with huge piles of real and delicious food. It was a-maize-ing, if you’ll ignore my completely awful but necessary pun.)

Anyway, continuing: then I showed my family around campus a little, we took–you guessed it–more pictures, and I–you guessed it–cried some more.

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My mom took this photo in Angell Hall, our English building. When I was a senior in high school, Michigan was my top choice school but I hadn’t actually been on campus since I was like ten, so Mom and I played hooky one day to come explore. It was seeing this building, dedicated to words and stories, that convinced me this truly was the school for me.

From there, we walked to the Union, where we had the Screen Arts & Cultures (aka: film school) ceremony and reception. My family loaded up on even more food. I talked with friends. Then we sat through our second ceremony, and I walked across a stage a second time, and people took more pictures.

The director of our screenwriting program, Jim Bernstein, gave a really wonderful speech about giving kids in arts fields the time to succeed. I’m paraphrasing here, because, again, it’s been a few months, but he basically pointed out how we give the kids who become lawyers and doctors all of their extra years of schooling past undergrad before we expect them to be successful. So, why don’t we do the same for kids going into film-making, or writing, or photography? Just because we’re not in a formal school environment doesn’t mean we’re not also using those years to learn and grow.

If you want people to succeed, you need to get them the chance to.

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I only minored in SAC, because I was way more interested in learning how the industry works and how to analyze and critique films than actually learning how to make them. So, I decided to forgo taking production classes in favor of taking only the classes I really wanted to (which means I was only a few classes short of a major, credit-wise, but requirement-wise I was nowhere close) (sorry not sorry; I had an amazing time in film school).

After that, my family said their goodbyes and headed home, and I headed back to my apartment. That night I went out with some friends to celebrate. (Yay!) Aaand my roommates and I made one of the biggest mistakes of our life by watching the series finale of Gilmore Girls. (NOT YAY. VERY NOT YAY.)

The next morning was Day 2 of Graduation Weekend. I got up at 5:30 to shower and Hannah and I were ready (actually mostly) on time, this time. We headed off to our friend Melissa’s apartment for breakfast. The group of us there ate, freaked out about the weather (WHY WAS IT LIKE FORTY DEGREES AT THE END OF APRIL?), then piled into an Uber and headed to the Big House.

For anyone who doesn’t know: the Big House is the nickname for Michigan Stadium, aka our football stadium, aka the largest stadium in the United States and second largest stadium in the world. (#GoBlue)

Every spring, the university hosts the big, everyone-is-invited graduation ceremony in the Big House. This means organizing something like six thousand graduates. It was madness. Our group managed to stay together, though, and we had a wonderful (albeit surreal) time.

The Big House ceremony is weird, because it’s the one everyone talks about, so it’s the one you most look forward to–but it’s also really impersonal and huge (and the speaker honestly left a lot of us feeling like we were getting lectured by our doesn’t-realize-he’s-racist uncle). But still, I love being in the Big House, and it was a last hurrah for a couple of the people in our group, and it was nice.

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A selfie of me and 6,000 of my closest friends.

After the ceremony, I adventured across the bleachers, stopping to talk with friends who’d sat elsewhere along the way, and finally found my family. We took pictures (I hope you’re noticing a trend by now), then we headed to a special graduation brunch in the Union.

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I am a walking stereotype.

The food was delicious (that was also a trend), but unfortunately, after battling traffic across campus, we arrived at the brunch about twenty minutes before I needed to be at my fourth and final graduation ceremony. So I had just enough time to stuff a bagel in my mouth, wave goodbye to my family, and sprint across campus (in heels that had already rubbed half the skin off my ankles at that point) to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the League to check in.

Although all of the graduation ceremonies were great throughout the weekend, my last one was by far my favorite. It was for the Residential College. The RC is known for being quirky and informal and the exact opposite of what the Big House is: personal.

I lived in the RC for the first two years of college and the girls with whom I’ve shared my apartment the latter two years are all RC. The hell that was Intensive Spanish my freshman year was an RC requirement. I had the same creative writing instructor from my intro class freshman year to my honors thesis senior year.

In the past four years, I’ve hated the RC and I have loved the RC. I’ve gone through periods when I never would have recommended even stepping within ten feet of the RC’s home, East Quad. But looking back on it, the RC defined so much of my undergraduate career. And I’m really grateful for the opportunities and friendships and weird stories being in the RC afforded me.

And, of course, RC graduation was the most RC thing in the world. Instead of just having us walk across the stage like at a normal ceremony, each graduate got a couple minutes to do whatever they wanted to on stage. There was a lot of thanking of parents and friends and favorite professors. There was singing and plant-stealing and two girls boxing. A friend even roller skated across the stage.

It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. It was incredible. I cried a lot. (Who’s surprised.)

From there, a parade of bagpipers led students across campus to East Quad, where the university stuffed us with even more food. (At that point in Graduation Weekend, I was pretty sure I would never be hungry ever again in my entire life.)

Unfortunately, because my family and I hadn’t realized quite how much U of M would be feeding us throughout the weekend, we had a dinner reservation for after the last reception at Pizza House (a local place known for their feta bread, which, by the way, is life in food form).

So we dutifully trooped over there, where we attempted to get through the mound of food they served us. And then I gave my parents a photo album I’d put together with pictures of our family over the last four years. And, yeah–this is the part I mentioned before about bursting into tears in the middle of Pizza House.

It was a really lovely time with my family, though. I’m so grateful so many people were able to come celebrate with me that weekend. I never would have been able to make it through college without them, so it meant a ton that they all came to graduation.

After dinner, my family dropped me back off at my apartment, where I spent some time staring at all of the Michigan stuff on my bedroom walls and being numb (I FINALLY CRIED MYSELF OUT IT WAS A MIRACLE). Then Hannah and another of our really good friends sat on our couch for a few hours drinking cheap wine and binge eating apple pie and talking and being sad-but-happy in that weird way things like graduation can make you and it was also lovely.

Overall the entire weekend was that way. A weird mixture of sad and happy. Lots of crying and lots of eating. (What’s not to love.)

And I’m really proud of myself. Like, college truly is what you make it, and I’m so happy I spent this time learning everything that I could and traveling and having lots of chill nights at home writing or watching movies with friends or playing guitar. And I love the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor and so many of the people I’ve gotten to know while here.

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I’m going to miss them, this place, and being an undergrad. But I’m also so excited to see what comes next.

For now: Ch1Con 2016. Then the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then the Columbia Publishing Course UK at Oxford.

After that, who knows. I’m kind of terrified. I’m really excited.

Here we go.

 

~Julia

*This is a lie. (But be careful because they do occasionally mistake human flesh for a snack.) (But LOOK AT HOW CUTE.)

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Bonus Post: How to Study for Finals

Step 1: Start out confident.

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Step 2: Realize you can’t remember a single thing you learned at the beginning of the semester anymore, and the rest of it is just sort of a haze of why-am-I-not-sleeping-right-now and when-are-we-actually-going-to-need-to-know-this-(oh-crap-I-forgot-about-finals).

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Step 3: Make a face like a pirate in hopes of scaring your notes into making more sense.

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Step 4: When that doesn’t work, make a face like a lost puppy instead, in hopes of depressing your notes into taking pity on you, and thus making more sense.

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Step 5: Take a nap.

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If you’ve got final exams coming up: Good luck! I’m rooting for you not to fall flat on your face like I’m probably going to.

If you don’t: Run.

Talk to you Wednesday!

~Julia

PS. I’m serious. Run. Run, Forrest, Run–save yourself while you still can, because, “The finals are coming! The finals are coming!” AHHHHH.