Yesterday was an incredibly emotional day. I didn't cry, and yet I had ALL the feels, for 3 reasons:
1. It was April 30th, marking 1 year since my graduation from THEE University of Michigan - Ann Arbor! I remember the day well. I woke up at 6am worried about how my hair would turn out since I tried a new method (I tend to try new things on very important days where I should really stick to the status quo), and then it hit me - this would be my last day experiencing life as I had known it for the past 4 years. I wasn't prepared for how excited I would be. I knew it was a big day, but I didn't know it would mean so much, until the day came.
When it came, I got a text from the girl pictured here, Paris; a wonderful friend that I made my final semester; subsequently the last class of my life was spent with her. In the text she relayed to me that she was wondering who she should sit next to in the Big House for the 2016 Commencement. Out of all the people she met in her last four years, the only person she really wanted to be next to on such an occasion, was me. I honor that text to this day. It reminds me: It's never too late to make new friends.
That night at Black Celeb (the African-American graduation ceremony), my SororZ of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, and I, strolled across the stage together one last time! That day, I was told so many times that I was glowing. I never truly knew what it looked like to "glow" before then, but looking back at these pictures (especially the one of me and my father at the top), I can attest to that truth. From my skin, to my hair, to my cap and gown decorated with all of the cords I'd worked so hard for, I indeed was a young woman experiencing #blackgirlmagic at it's finest.
2.Yesterday was also my high school's annual fundraiser: Tea for Tuition
I didn't think much of being invited by my family friend who also graduated from Mercy. When she invited me to join her table, I obliged and simply put it down as another event I would go to for the week. Everything was normal...but then I walked in, and the memories hit me like a flood. I only graduated 5 years ago, and I visited twice afterward, and yet so much has changed! I hadn't stepped foot inside those old halls since leaving for college, but in my head and heart, I felt all things would remain the same indefinitely. Alas, that's not how life works.
Teachers were different: hair was grayer, some had lost weight (more power to you), some had gained weight (we are one in that experience), and some were no longer even living. When I came to Mercy my freshman year, I knew no one. When I left, I was the President of Student Council for the entire school - a goal I'd had since my first day there. It truly wasn't a long shot to say that by the time I graduated, everyone knew who I was. Even 3 years past graduating from Mercy, I would have young new girls at UofM stop me and say something to the effect of "You don't know me, but I was at Mercy when you were President, and I've looked up to you ever since". To go from that, to walking into a familiar space with all new faces that no longer knew mine, was eye opening. Now there's a completely new generation of students coming up, and there's another young girl who will be the inspiration to many. The only constant in life, is change...and God, He's really constant too :)
3. To end the day, my parents were in the mood to watch old family videos. I'd figured the rest of my day was already filled with memories, why not continue the flow. We popped a video into the only VHS player left at the house, and I was amazed at this tape that I'd never seen. On it, for the first time in my life, I heard what my grandfather's voice sounded like. My mother had gone down to Mississippi when she got news that her father was sick, and she wanted to be sure to get lasting footage of him. Since he passed four months before I was born, I never thought of the fact that all I'd ever really known was what he looked like, and even that was just from one solitary picture. Then out of nowhere, I was confronted by this video that showed he was an actual, moving, and talking being. For the first time, I saw my grandmother as having been someone's wife at a certain point in life, a role I've never truly seen her play. Even bigger, I suddenly saw my mother as having been someone's daughter. I saw her in this video as being just as big of a daddy's girl as I am now. Thinking of my mother as a person who held this position in her past life really rocked me, especially since I was a person who didn't even know that the word "grandfather" existed until around first grade. It's a blessing she was able to capture both him AND his mother in this video, my mother's grandmother whom she affectionately called "Big Momma". It was surreal that her Big Momma was 81 going on 82 in the video and now in 2017, my Big Momma is the same age. Just as my mother was a granddaughter, so am I. Now, the age that my Big Momma was when in the video, my parents are in that same ballpark (I won't get too specific on exactly where in the ballpark they are, but suffice it to say, they're in the game LOL).
People age. Roles shift. Those who looked at you as a child will pass away and a new generation will rise up and one day call you a grandparent. Even the day after tomorrow will soon be referred to as "yesterday". Transition is just a fact of life, and with April/May being a month of GREAT transition for recent graduates of all kinds, I would like to leave you all with some tips during this juncture in life:
Tips for those celebrating the recent graduates
1. Avoid asking the age old question: "So, what's next?"
Here's the thing: most of the time when you ask that question, you don't actually care about the answer. It's usually just being asked as a way to make polite conversation and you probably won't even remember the answer. Every time this question is asked, it inspires anxiety in those whose answer is "I don't know", or for those who don't feel their next step aligns with your goals for them. For some people, the next step is unclear or goes a little further off the beaten path of going into the corporate world immediately or heading to Grad School. For people in that predicament, this question can feel like a constant reminder that they don't have it all together like their friends who are posting those world renown "I am pleased to announce..." statuses on Facebook. Truth is, for those who are truly clear about their next step, they are over the moon to tell you about it and it WILL come up in conversation without your prompting, so just wait for it.
2. Be supportive!
As long as their next step is legal, be supportive! Be sure not to project your bad experiences onto them. If they are going into a field that you may have previously tried and it didn't work out for you, that does not mean that it won't work out for them. Don't dissuade a new grad with fear tactics. Even if they fail, they won't be upset at themselves for trying something new that didn't work out the way they wanted, but they will be hurt by your "I told you so".
3. Keep in communication with your recent grads
Remember how you felt in this juncture of life. With so much change going on, it can be really helpful to know that strong relationships will stay consistent. Give your recent grad a call on the phone just to check up on them! Send a care package and let them know you're thinking of them. Even if it's just sending a nice text message, let them know that they are on your minds and that you're sending positive vibes their way.
Tips for New & Recent Graduates
1. Be patient with yourself
Take it from me, this is a hard one that I'm working on myself! I envisioned myself being much further along in my life by this point, one year post graduation. I'm not where I want to be, but I also have to remind myself that I'm not where I once was. In the times that you get discouraged about not being quite where you want to be in life, recall to mind all of the things that you have been able to do! Remind yourself of all the goals you've set and met. At each new stage in life, you more or less start on the bottom, but gain the perspective of seeing even that as progression. Right now, it may feel like you're on the lower level of a whole new building, but it's only because your potential has outgrown the old building you were in. Your time IS coming, and just as you dominated the other levels in life, this will be no different.
2. Trust the process
When I look back at the video of my mom from so long ago, she is so different now because she has matured. She is no longer the person dependent on her father, but she is a married woman. Now, she doesn't have the opportunity to speak to her Big Momma for wisdom, but she is the mother of two adult children that she can give wisdom to, and I'm sure she isn't far from being a Big Momma herself. She didn't come off as extremely motherly in the video, but that's because she didn't need to be then. Yet, when the time came just two years later for her to complete her home with two children, she fell into the role and grew into her new garment, the garment of parenthood. You will mature too. This new garment of the real world may feel heavy and really loose fitting at first, but trust God and all that you have learned and experienced so far: you will grow into it, and one day, this will all be second nature to you.
3. Be confident in YOUR journey
In the same way that I implored those around you to NOT ask the "what's next" question, prepare your mind to expect it! Even though it's a question that I know many of us don't want to hear, the truth is that it will only bring up feelings of anxiety if YOU are not comfortable and confident about your life's journey. Be okay with yourself and your direction in life, even if it diverges from other's. Your dreams and goals are worth fighting for. They will not always make sense to other people, but that's why God gave the dream to you, and not to them!
As for me, when people ask the question about what I'm doing now, I simply reply: "Today, I take life as it comes." Isn't that all that any of us can really do anyway?