g r a d u a t e d. ūüéď‚ú®

So 6 days ago I graduated from The Undergrad Experience‚ĄĘ.

Today marks the 60-something day I’ve spent in my smol apartment quarantine.

I was blessed with clear skies and a friend with great artistry to help me document the moment in my grad regalia on a barren campus in 49 degree weather. She captured what felt like an hour of “normalcy” — normal grad pics, normal “culminating hoorah”. The bursting forth of joy for all of the love for the people, places, and experiences I’ve been so lucky to have for the past 4 years.

As I watch us all having our own celebrations… at home, with family, virtually… it’s hard not to be filled with a gratitude that extends beyond the normal huzzah hurray pomp n circumstance that comes with this rite-of-passage kind of ceremonial time.

My youngest brother is also graduating high school and I can’t imagine how hard this is. For people in these shoes who had planned for things to go a certain way, only to have the red carpet kind of yanked out from under them. But the joy and resilience and comfort and closeness that this time has brought us… I think, is, in a way, a grad gift of its own.

Not many will be able to tell their future offspring that, during a worldwide pandemic, they graduated anyway. Not many will be able to say that, despite this mass migration to online learning in classrooms over Zoom and WebEx that feel so foreign and cold and exhausting [esp. when you have one after the other!] but yet oddly comforting as you see the faces of others going through it like you… that you did it anyways.

The days feel like mini rollercoasters, blending together in a rush that feels like a lifetime but also a few minutes– some days are better than others, more creative than others, more positive than others.

And some are days where you just want to roll up in a ball and not do anything but binge watch your favorite series on Netflix for all 8 hours you’re awake.

Taking time to write down and document the present moment helps. Taking time to look around at all the *new* things, the new concepts and ways of life, the habits that you’ve come to cultivate, the practice you’ve had at giving yourself the time and space to actually heal with good habits, with a focus towards turning in & tuning in to what’s really going on.

This time has been a gift, and continues to be so— even as people throw around talk of “returning to normal” or “re-opening”– we’ve spent so much time re-doing, re-learning, re-imagining… I don’t think it will ever truly go “back to normal”. Which is a blessing, I think. So much of all this has transformed the way we think about public health, about the Internet [as a FRICKING UTLITY!], about our work-life balance, about how we treat eachother, how we “show up” for one another even if we can’t do it physically.

I think all of us graduated this year.
We’ve graduated from our old lives.

We’re walking across a stage that’s intimidating and scary with the fear of stumbling.

But we’re walking towards something greater than ourselves.

xx

we did it (:

the quarantine diaries: day 38 // the tassle hassle

So my cap n gown arrived in the mail today.

There’s only 17 days left til “g r a d u a t i o n” |-,: There’s so much left to do and the day seems to be shrinking instead of getting longer and this time by myself really E X P L O I T s my time management weaknesses (((-:

But alas. Patience. Patience with myself. I need to be reminded to have patience with myself.

I basically worked all day today but landed a summer job (????) with a good starting salary all things considering??? Thank the Lord [literally, it’s a church job.]

Annnd not a single ice cream sandwich was had
Until now [I’ve been trying to restrain myself– they’re now a staple of my every day life, along with Gilmore Girls and it’s associated late 2000’s revamp.]

What a time to be alive.

for the grads.

This is a stereotypical graduation post, I know.

Two of my siblings walked the stage today, and I couldn’t be more proud. It was weird being back in my high school, even weirder to be back in that ceremony. But wow, what an experience. To be on the other side, to see all of these high school seniors bright-eyed, looking forward to their summer before they start college and knowing they’ll do incredible things. I also learned a bit about myself today.

The faculty speaker at the graduation, a dude very near and dear to my heart, had some of the best words [well, more like ideas/concepts] of the whole ceremony, and I just have to put them here because they were so important, in addition to some words of my own. Being at the ceremony made me aware of so much– from my personal growth since sitting there in a cap and gown, to the acknowledgement of the growth that I know I have yet to happen.

So here’s a list of random things that I want to pass along to all those who are continuing on their journey, whether that’s jumping straight into the business world, taking a bit of a life-pause, or continuing on to college.

Remember these “inequalities of life”. [I’m pulling right from the speech of the beloved faculty speaker I mentioned earlier, here]:

EXPERIENCES > POSESSIONS
TIME > MONEY
OTHER > SELF

Fact of the matter is, all of things that are “less than” are not the things we’ll be missing when we look back on our lifetime, when we make the judgement and the statements of regret. So the gift of your time [for yourself or for others], the respect and care for others, and the memories you make are all going to be superior to any tangible thing you could ever want.

You will never regret being kind. If you have the opportunity, take it. Also, there is a difference between being nice and being kind. Flashing a fake smile is an illusion of kindness; sitting with someone, talking to them and going the extra mile is not only the better way to build connections, it’s more fulfilling.

Do your best to value sleep. If your sleep habits are reasonably good, a lot of other ones will fall into place. You need sleep to function.

Take time to self-reflect. For me, this means writing here. This means keeping a journal, this means reading other things. Often. All of these help me get back on track, whenever I feel as if I’ve gone off of the rails of who I am, or who I used to be.

Turn off your phone sometimes.¬†Being behind a screen all day is more insidious than you’d think. Take a break, go for a walk, or a run, or pick up a book or call someone up [do people even call other people nowadays?] NOT on speakerphone, so you can’t be tempted to multitask while building friendship connections.

Do your best to fail productively.¬†No one likes failure, no one likes rejection, no one likes disapproval. But if you know how to take those things, look at them objectively and see where the wheels came off and even more importantly, look at it from a “what did I gain from this?” perspective, it’ll be a lot more easy-going.

Build tiny routines into your week.¬†That way, when everything feels like it’s falling apart coughespeciallyduringmidtermsfinalsweekcough¬†¬† , you at least know you can expect to be doing some small things as scheduled, such as making your bed, writing/reading every night before bed, starting the morning with a stretch and/or a prayer, etc.

Drink water. Lots of it. End of story.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.¬†This was mentioned the graduation speech today, but it’s also something I’ve held onto for a really long time that I was reminded of today. Embrace the quirks, the imperfections, and know that it’s okay to be human sometimes. There’s times and places to be serious, like in your work and at funerals. But sometimes, it’s just necessary to be goofy, to fail often, and look at yourself in an honest, candid, not-too-harsh light.

Consume carefully.¬†Be an intelligent consumer. Be thrifty, have a budget. It’ll save you SO much stress and uncertainty down the road. And that’s just for shopping. I also mean be a careful consumer of¬†media.¬†Be reluctant to trust things until you’ve looked at multiple sources. Be wary of the terms and agreements [read them through before checking yes!!]. Consume consciously. Aka don’t fall into auto-pilot mode and scroll for eternity– be mindful about what you’re looking for and consider why you may be looking for those things. AND. In the realm of alcohol… just remember that you have a choice, and that consequences will kick in the moment that drink touches your lips, and you have to be willing to accept those.

Do not rely solely on others for your happiness.¬†This is something that I have struggled with [and continue to struggle with] for a long time. Whether it’s friends, a relationship, or some other source of something– the fact is, if there is unhappiness rooted deep within you, chances are it needs to be addressed where it is–deep within you, in areas you wouldn’t think to look in, in areas that instinct and desire for comfort tells you to avoid. Which brings me to the next one…

Embrace the uncomfortable. Before I left school for the summer, I saw a TEDTalk about how we should be striving to immerse ourselves [when we can] in the unfamiliar, to explore what is different from is. This is how we learn. This is how we find similarities amidst differences we thought we couldn’t see past. This is how we bridge the gaps. Try saying “yes” to things that [situationally] make you uncomfortable. I’m not saying abandon your morals or sacrifice your safety– I mean more along the lines of engaging in [perhaps] challenging civil discourse, making the first move to befriend someone, going to a club or organization meeting just to try it. Whatever you do, there’s something to learn from it.

Take pride in all you do, and don’t be afraid to be a “try-hard”.¬†Trying hard doesn’t have to mean you’re a nerdy show-off. No, in fact, just the opposite. It means that you quietly show up, you get ready for success every day because you did your best to prepare, put your best effort forth, you do your best to meet in the middle, and have confidence in your skill.

Keep up with at least 1 of your passions on the side. Gives you something to look forward to on a weekly basis, as well as a safe space to learn and grow, and further figure out what your interests are.

Speak up when your gut tells you you need to.¬†That’s the only way we’re going to beat an insidious indifference, looming hatred, and other nonsensical injustice.

Whole-ass everything. Your homework. Your friendships. Your art. Your instrument. Your practice. Your relationships. Things change, people change, sometimes it ends in heartbreak but embrace the risk. Embracing the risk in the first place is what catapults you into learning about yourself.

Befriend vulnerability.¬†Whatever that means to you– breaking the small-talk routines and injecting a bit of yourself into daily discourse, admitting from time to time that no, you’re not “fine”, or not being afraid to tell someone how you feel. This one was/is a big one for me. You don’t have to be “on” all of the time, and sometimes it’s great to just be alone with your thoughts and your truth, even if it’s far from “perfect”. Perfection is a myth, anyway.

TALK IT OUT.¬†I’m thinking more in the realm of relationships here… but. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Letting them in on your uncertainty, your doubts, your fears, your desires, whatever it may be– it’s those often difficult conversations that are going to bridge the gap between separate understandings, separate truths– and it’s ultimately what paved the way for authentic friendships.

…And LISTEN even harder.¬†Good, active listening means immersing yourself in the words of another as they’re saying them, empathizing and showing you care. It’s harder than it looks. But it’s so much better than rapid-firing retorts back and forth and using the other person’s speech as planning time for what you’re going to say right back to the person. Also always be willing to practice this.

Have hope, and dwell in gratitude often.¬†“When life closes a door, God opens a window.” I have never experienced this more than I have in the past year, I’m pretty sure. There’s always a way, there’s always something to look forward to, even if it seems a bit far in the distance or non-existent. Having faith is¬†key. So being able to sit down and look around at what you have and realize that it’s enough, that you’ve been blessed with so much already that you need to put the breaks on chasing unnecessary desires, is a really, really important tool to have.

I could probably go on and on but the truth is I’m still learning how to implement these more fully myself, and I have so much to learn in the meantime.

But for now, just focus on being you and staying true to what you know you want.

xx

Tassels Transferred + An Update

I’m still kinda in denial.
Graduation was basically a week ago, but somehow I can’t get over the fact that I won’t be waking up at 7:30 every morning next year… In my house, with my parents and siblings…
With no one telling me what to do when, who to see when, when to go to sleep and when to wake up….
Walking across the stage was surreal… But perhaps the craziest part that will remain vivid in my mind forever was when we first filed in the gymnasium. We were in alphabetical order, and I was, as always, at the end of the line to go in. But when the back end of us finally entered in the doors, we were met with thunderous, standing applause from every wall of bleachers… It was so powerful, to look around and see all of these people who have basically built us to be who we are now clapping and cheering, exclaiming their pride on two feet with vigorous applause, seeming to say “we’re so proud of you, this is your moment, you made it, congratulations, it’s all gonna change soon but we’re gonna be here, cheering you on”. It made me choke up, not gonna lie.
And the air conditioner didn’t die! For once… And I didn’t mess up my senior solo, and I didn’t trip walking up to the stage or back from it….
Afterwards my family and I went to one of my favorite small restaurant spots with awesome Mediterranean cuisine, and my mom tried to buy me a drink, asking the waitress “how old do you have to be to drink?” Which made me laugh because she grew up with the drinking age as 18 instead of today’s age, 21. And me, being 19, didn’t get a drink that day.
And so here I am.
I’m a teenager in limbo. Not a student, not a full fledged adult (I mean, I’m 19, technically an adult.. But then adults don’t blow off their taxes for 9 months and quit their jobs to go on vacation…or do they?)
Speaking of quitting work… My family is gonna go to the beach this Saturday, with my widowed grandmother. It’ll be the last normal family vacation for a whiiiiile, but my boss would flip his little bipolar lid if he lost me for two weeks. But it’s okay, because I was kinda done with the drama at the place I worked anyways.. Who knew a mini soap opera could exist within a family-owned Italian restaurant…
I write now in the middle of no-where Maryland, from ¬†the house of my grandmother sandwiched in between a creek and a river. My mom planned to visit her mom for two reasons– 1) to just provide some company for her since she’s a little lonely, and 2) to coax her into actually coming to the beach with us this is weekend.
She used to go with her husband in September, after the intense tourism waves, in a more low-key part of Delaware. But ever since her husband passed away, she says she hasn’t really been able to wrap her mind about going back. And I don’t blame her– it must be so hard to go back to a place that you used to visit with the love of your life by your side for 50 years or so straight…
But she has made comments about being half way willing recently, and my mom is using these two days to connect with her and help tip the scale.
And my siblings and I are just along for the ride. I appreciate getting away from everything for a bit– it’s peaceful here, and I spent many hours (for the first time in a while) outside fishing! I feel kind of fuzzy and big sisterly for the first time in a while too, as I taught Boo how to cast off with a fishing pole for the first time, on the same ground where I learned from my uncle. So there’s that.
Despite the peaceful atmosphere and the big sister vibe however.. I scrambled this morning to register for my fall classes… And boy did my upcoming college adventure hit me hard.. I had to sit down and plan all my classes out on paper and do the best I could to choose my classes via the website ON MY PHONE because I did not have a computer. That kind of sucked… But it made me think so hard about the year ahead, and further texting sprees with my awesome room mate made it all so real to me–the fact that I’ll be moved out of my home at the end of August, 3 hours away with a(n amazing) girl I’m just now getting to really know, and that ¬†for once I’ll be embarking on a personalized educational journey of mostly my creation… It’s just a bit overwhelming at times. In a good way.
But when it all became too much and I wanted to throw my phone at the wall for the lack of service and battery power, I just had to stop and go outside, and I helped a lot. Being out here watching an amazing sunset was just all around healing.
Annnnnd here are some shots I got from today!

 

 

I’ve got one more day here, then last day at work on Wednesday, and then I pack for the beach, get stabbed with immunizations, attempt to watch Finding Dory in theatres before I don’t see J for a month…
And then I’ll be going down for orientation soon.
It’s crazy how fast the time flies and will fly…
And all I can do is attempt to reel it back in as slowly as I can.
xoxo,
Steph