Graduation words.

I have been trying to come up with words for my feelings about this past weekend. I think about it in the car when I drive — without music, because all of my thoughts are so loud. I talk to myself about it as I run — also without music, because all of my questions are rhythm enough:

Who are you now? What are you worth? What defines you? Was it all worth it?

Are you happy now?

I don’t have the answers in a neat package right now. I talked myself in circles for an hour to a friend last night and afterward (and now, too) all I could think was, “You sounded so silly and proud and stupid and it got you nowhere.” I can’t even come up with good words to write a blog post, because whatever I say would be petty. So here are words from other people who already said and did so more eloquently than I will now.

One piece that’s been showing up all over the Internet lately is The Opposite of Loneliness, by 2012 Yale grad Marina Keegan; she died in a car accident on May 26, just days after she graduated. I came across this piece posted online a few weeks ago, and I’ve been saving it for now, just to see if I feel the same way about SPU now that we’re done.

Until a few days ago, I wasn’t sure that I would.

Then again, my senior year was untraditional, and I spent it building new relationships with friends from schools all over the country – sometimes at the expense of friendships at home in Seattle, where old relationships got preserved in junior-year time while senior year whizzed past. I came home three weeks ago and have had to play catch up on a lost year in which I wasn’t part of the SPU community. But what I felt walking into Tiffany Loop on Friday morning hinted (even if only a little bit) at what Keegan experienced at Yale:

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.

Later on Friday and Saturday, though, my strange mixed emotions started to remind me of a very different piece by Keegan. In September 2011, Keegan reflected on being “special” and wrote:

I’m so jealous. Unthinkable jealousies … Everyone else is so successful, and I hate them. There’s a German word … schadenfreude, which means a pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. The word flips into my head like a shaming pop-up when a girl doesn’t get the internship either or a boy’s show is bad. I was lying in bed the other night wondering whether the Germans created a word for its opposite when I realized that the displeasure derived from the fortune of others is easier to spell. I should have thought to coin its green eyes.

I was jealous of so many things this weekend — and they were laughable jealousies. I was jealous of the people who weren’t denied the right to wear the honor cords they had earned. I was jealous of people whose majors sounded so much more impressive than “communications.” I was jealous of people for whom college at SPU really was everything they had dreamed it would be.

And those are laughable jealousies. Stupid, pitiful jealousies. Aggravating, shameful jealousies, because I am richly blessed in so many ways. In spite of everything, it has been hard to remember that lately. I suppose that’s why it is hard to find the right words: Even I know how petty they sound; it makes me not want to say them.

And maybe that’s why I was so struck by these words this morning, part of today’s post on I Wrote This For You:

Only the things you do have real, lasting value, not the things you get for the things you do. You will, at some point, realise that no trophy [or GPA or plaque or honors cord] loves you as much as you love it, that it cannot pay your bills (even if it increases your salary slightly) and that it won’t hold your hand tightly as you say your last words on your deathbed. Only people who love you can do that.

Do not sacrifice this moment in the hopes of a better one. It is easy to remember all these things when they are being said, it is much harder to remember them when you are stuck in traffic or lying in bed worrying about the next day [or one’s impending move to Chicago]. If you want to move people, simply tell them the truth. Today, it is rarer than it’s ever been.

I have been trying to find true words. I will continue trying.


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