I’ve been avoiding making the final updates to my blog because, well, every time I sat down to write, I was reminded of a fact I wasn’t quite ready to face: I GRADUATED.
No, I KNOW, right? I am a Cornell graduate. That’s me in that photo on the right. At graduation. I have a diploma, which I made my parents take away so that I would neither destroy the most expensive piece of paper I will ever lay my grubby fingers on nor be forced to look at the tangible evidence that the best years of my life thus far have come to an end.
I will say this: I made it out of the Hotel School with not one single credit to spare. Ha! But I passed finance (with a D, but that is neither here nor there) and knowing I worked my ass off this semester really made the Commencement festivities all the more satisfying.
Now, Senior Week was a sloppy mess. I literally could not have spared a single moment to sit down and reflect on anything, and I think that’s the reason why there’s a big space between the last day of finals and Commencement weekend — the idea, I suppose, is to let all the seniors drink and party so they don’t have any time to realize that in a matter of days they will be thrust into the vast, mythical nebulous nothingness that is the Real World. Or maybe that’s actually the reason we were drinking all week. Meh, who knows. Point here: it was GREAT.
Then came Commencement weekend. Maya Angelou, in all her crazy awesomeness, was a fantastic speaker on Saturday during Convocation, but nothing she could have said and nothing I could have ever imagined could have prepared me for the experience of Sunday’s Commencement ceremony.
Words could never do justice to the things we all felt during Commencement. We all cried more than once that day, and nobody was able to articulate what they were feeling or whether the tears were happy tears or sad tears. We had this unfamiliar knot in our stomachs; a bittersweet potent cocktail of enormous pride, overwhelming happiness and debilitating terror.
That morning, in all our funny graduation regalia, three of my best friends and I walked toward Schoellkopf stadium from the Arts Quad with the rest of the Hotel School. Along the way, we passed the Board of Trustees and President Skorton, cheering and smiling, and almost all the Cornell Faculty members who had these huge proud-parent type grins on their faces, calling out to congratulate each one of us as we walked by. As we got closer to the stadium, the entire Statler Hotel staff was there to cheer us on. I can say, without much doubt, that the Procession is something I will remember forever and one of the best moments of my life.
And then we walked into the stadium and saw the crowd and it was all suddenly so real.
The following days were the toughest. Between hoeing out my apartment, shipping all my crap, and saying goodbye to the people who had, more or less, become my second family over the last four years, I was left bewildered and shellshocked by the end of the whole thing. And all I could think was holy crap: I am a Cornell graduate.