Commencement

“1,460 days. Or should I say 1,461 days to include that extra day afforded by the leap year? That is all the time the average undergraduate student will be enrolled in their university. Factor in breaks, summer jobs, study abroad experiences, and the possibility of transferring and the days speed by like water down a drain. The worst part comes when you meet people you love but are a year older and no matter how much you want them to stay, they have to go on to the bigger and better opportunities that come after graduation. That’s the worst part about Cornell; not the grueling 20 minute walk up hill to classes, not pre-lims with a mean score of 52—the worst part is that the people you come to care for will leave before you are ready to say good-bye.
Maybe my situation was avoidable. Maybe, if I had chosen to live with girls that were sophomores like me or maybe if I had experienced the “normal” housing situation where you hate your roommates I could have avoided the tearful heart-wrenching good-bye to girls who have changed my life. Most people would just call me a softie and think I was exaggerating so before I begin, let me explain a few things. I would like to introduce you to the reasons why I love these girls. First, there is AJB my actual roommate. AJB is the ying to my yang; my side of the room consists of rigid order—her side is best described as “organized chaos.” AJB has taught me the value of accepting others as they are; I accept her chaos and she has accepted my OCD tendencies. Then there is Lawton-the athletic one who enjoys being loud. Lawton has shown me that a good time can always be found even in the simplest things; like putting on boots! Jacqueline, the tallest and I guess you could say quietest person has shown me the value of taking risks; whether it’s taking up windsurfing or venturing out onto Cayuga Lake in kayaks, Jac lives for adventure. Finally there is Chelsea, the only Brunette among us and the main reason I hate good-byes. Chelsea is leaving us after a year full of voicing her opinion, trying to corrupt me, and giving us the most laughs. Chelsea has taught me the value of being yourself because if others love you, they will accept you just the way you are. 
All five of us make 113 Heights Court the place I want to go home to. We have family dinners at least twice a week and laughing fits where we all end up in one bed, even more frequently. In 24 hours we will all go our separate ways and all I will have left of this year is memories I will cherish—and while I am blessed to have those, I still believe the worst thing about Cornell is learning to say good-bye. I love you girls!!”

As the woman in Freedom Writers says, "Your faces are ingrained in my memory and upon my heart." Thank you for an amazing year-words cannot express what it's meant to me! I love you all!!

This is the blog that started it all! Two year and two weeks ago, I wrote this blog to apply to be a Life on the Hill student blogger.  But today it was my turn.  I stood up with the class of 2012 graduates had my diploma conferred upon me! While it was a wonderful ceremony, the things I will remember most include: the sunburn my family members proudly bear so they could be there to support me;  my boyfriend Russ traveling on his crutches all across campus to ensure he didn’t miss a second of the recognition; my father yelling so loud that I found all of my friends and family in a stadium full of 40, 000 people; my mom coordinating her dress to show Big Red pride (which happened to compliment my outfit too); a family wine tour along the west side of Cayuga Lake; and a BBQ at my advisor’s house with the rest of the Agricultural Science Education graduates.

While I have many wonderful memories from my time at Cornell, commencement is an extremely fitting way to end my stories and tales about this experience.  It would be really easy to focus on that slight sense of panic that overcomes you when faced with the unnerving question, “What next?” however I’d like to share a theory I have with you.  The reason Cornell calls it “Commencement” is to ease that reaction.  When a degree candidate or recent graduate thinks of commencement, it means to begin something.  And that is what we are embarking on: the beginning of the next chapter of our lives.  For some of us, that means we’ll be entering the workforce; for others, we will be continuing our education with graduate coursework; and still others are going to take a break from academia for a while and join Americorp or plan their own adventures to hike the Appalachian Trail.  So, as I close this chapter of my life, I’m going to end my final blog just like I started it: by thanking the people I love the most.

Class of 2012 Agricultural Science Education Graduates: We did it! With just eight of us rounding out the major, I feel like we’ve become a pretty tight knit group (a point that was proven by the level of cheers at the diploma ceremony).  Thank you for the wonderful education discussions, the car pools to events, and for being so willing to serve and give back to the people who have gotten us this far! I know you’ll all do amazing things!

Class of 2012 Agricultural Science Education Graduates

 

Dr. Travis Park and Mr. Jeff Perry: These two education professors have continuously challenged me to do more and be more than I ever expected to be.  Just when I think I have this teaching business figured out, they have pushed me to accept a new challenge or asked for my honest feedback.  Dr. Park is the reason I made it to this day and I’m pretty sure four years ago when I walked into his office crying over the lowest grade I had ever received, neither of us thought we’d see this day.  His constant support and guidance was invaluable in navigating my time at Cornell. Mr. Perry is relatively new to the program however his words of wisdom from his years in the high school classroom have not fallen on deaf ears and make me excited to student teach this fall.

Mr. Jeff Perry (left) and Dr. Travis Park (right) handing us our diplomas!

My fellow hometown girls and FFA friend: While my high school only has 400 students total, we have a pretty good track record of sending our graduates to Cornell.  From car pooling to get home for breaks to talking about our shared experiences from home these girls have been a blessing.  Danielle and Catie will graduate next year and I’m so excited for them to feel the same excitement I felt today.  Right in the middle is Juleah, or “Miss T” as I was introduced to her four years ago.  She served as a mentor when I was an FFA state officer.  From teaching me to advocate for agriculture to advocating for me to ensure my whole family saw me receive my degree, her passion and conviction continues to ground me. While we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as you would expect going to the same university, they always remind me to never forget where we came from and how our town (and the friendships formed there) shaped the people we are today.

Catie, Me, Juleah, Amber, and Danielle

My family: From playing “Male cat and dog” to coaching every team I was ever on, I would not be here without my family.  They’ve been by my side for nearly twenty-two years and no matter near or far, I know they are only a phone call away (even if it was a 3 hour conversation Mom)! I could not ask for a more loving family and know that none of this would have been possible had they not instilled within me a belief that no dream was too big.  They never once mocked me as I sat on our living room floor as an 8 year-old telling our puppy that “Listen Nova (the puppy), I’m going to Cornell and gonna be a Vet someday!” nor did they pass judgement when I realized becoming a Vet was no longer the path I wanted. I love you guys (even you Logan)!

The Ackerley clan: Mom, me, Dad, and Logan

My 2nd mom and my sister: The titles of ‘mom’ and ‘sister’ could not be more true despite the fact that these next two women are not related by blood.  They have both been my confidants, supporters, cheerleaders (literally for Amber), and the shoulder to cry on when things just weren’t going right.  I’m pretty sure we’ve shed more tears, shared more laughs, and admitted more fears to each other than is healthy for any relationship, yet that’s why I value their friendship so much.  ‘Miss B’ as I still often call her has served as my role model and mentor for nearly ten years now.  Without her my life would have been very different.  As for Amber, she’s the first friend I can ever remember.  We met as Kindergartners in the town T-ball league and have been inseparable ever since.  We have pushed each other, lived together, worked together, and continue to pursue our futures together.  She is my better half in so many ways and each day I am awed by her strength and determination to make her dreams a reality–her ability to let nothing hold her back.

Me, Mama B, and Amber

Russ: He has been one of my biggest supporters for the past two years and each day I thank God that he is in my life.  From the encouraging notes left throughout the apartment to taking the time to value my achievements even when I don’t see them, to knowing when a hug would fix everything, or reminding me that I needed to buckle down on school work, I am continually amazed by his kindness and attentiveness.  So many times he knows me better than I know myself.  And today, he crutched up every hill I asked him to in order to make sure he could be there to cheer for me when I received my diploma. I’m not nearly as good as he is about voicing my feelings but I love him and wouldn’t want to celebrate this day without him.

Me and Russ

My Dad: Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be a tomboy; yet I’ve always truly been a daddy’s girl at heart.  While I may have preferred softball pants to dress and cleats to heels, I have always been “Daddy’s little princess”.  When other kids were upset to learn that there really wasn’t a Superman or Spiderman to ensure their safety, I never once was worried because my father has always been my hero.  He has guided, challenged, supported, and cheered me through all of my failures and accomplishments.  He always knew exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.  Throughout high school, he set a high expectation for success and when I fell short, he made me reflect on whether I could do better.  Yet in college, when his lessons of hard work and perseverance had ingrained themselves in my character, he gave me the constant reminder to relax and enjoy the life I’d worked so hard to build.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about him and would be remiss if I didn’t say: Thank you dad, I love you…and WE DID IT!!!

I Love you Dad!

Although today was technically “my day” to celebrate, today belongs to everyone mentioned here and even those who I have unfortunately left out.  As Dr. Park reminded the Ag Ed graduates, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  I am so thankful that my village has overflowed with such wonderful, charismatic, and character-filled people as those mentioned here and cannot wait to see where our next adventures take us!

Finally! Thank you to all of you who stuck with me through my scattered posts and hair-brained adventures.  I hope I’ve offered some profound thoughts and some insights into what my life at Cornell has been.  While I can’t say I always loved it, I wouldn’t change a second for the world! Here’s to embarking on a new adventure and seeing what the world has in store for me!

2 thoughts on “Commencement”

  1. Congratulations on graduation! Thank you for your effort all year writing the blog. I enjoyed reading it!

  2. I couldn’t finish reading without getting up to get a tissue, so I know you must’ve been bawling by the time you finished writing this! Just wanted to let you know, you’re a beautiful person, and there aren’t words to describe how proud I am of the woman you’ve become! I also wanted to thank the people who helped along the way to where you are today. I love you, Babe! Love, Mom

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