I Graduated! Thoughts On My Last Week As An Iowa Stater.

Hey there friends,

It’s crazy to think I’ve gotten this far, this quickly,… or so it feels.

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It seems like yesterday when I first saw the buildings of Maple-Willow-Larch as I was driving along Lincoln Way with my family. We had been driving for days, it seemed, trekking the whole way from Florida to Iowa on a road trip. I only knew it was MWL because I had been stalking the Iowa State website all summer, looking at all residence hall options, friending everyone I could get a hold of via the Facebook Class of 2014 page, and planning ahead for the upcoming four years of my life. 2014 felt like a thousand years ahead and yet I welcomed my parents to Ames already so they could partake in the day of my graduation.

It’s funny that at the same time that this event feels like a milestone of my life, it also feels so inconsequential. The experience is just so different from that time I graduated from high school. Then, I had a legion of friends and acquaintances that had grown-up with me since I was six years old. Now I graduate on my own, with my best friends graduating before or after me. This time, I’m part of a group of who-knows-how-many-thousands of students graduating at the same time. I’ve never felt so small, and at the same time, so empowered.

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Everyone  showered me with questions that last week about how I felt. All I was able to muster was “I don’t know”. Because the truth is… I didn’t really know. I felt both excited and nervous. Both happy of what’s to come and scared. Both not ready and “get me out of here”. Both “I feel like I’ve done so much” and yet “I didn’t have a chance to join that club!”. It just snuck up on me like only important dates have the power of doing, leaving your hair ruffled and wondering what the heck just happened.

I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I didn’t change my mailing address or pledge to see everyone I hadn’t talked to in forever in the next few days. I was just living my life at the same pace I’d always been: going to Stomping Grounds like twice a week, meeting up with my best friend for a night of studying, watching The Vampire Diaries before I went to bed in a late-night girly fit…

I didn’t feel like anything was changing, and yet, everything was. With the commonality of my day-to-day as my backdrop, I feel the stark contrast of how my life has changed throughout the years, how my friendships have evolved, how my frame of mind has changed. Whereas back in freshman year I might’ve felt guilty at not feeling a thousand emotions at once about that graduation day, today I feel like…I’ll be just fine.

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Sometimes I look back throughout the years at all I’ve done at Iowa State: all the clubs I’ve been a part of, all the friends that have come and gone, all the thrills of new jobs and new beginnings, and I wonder if there’s anything I’ve missed along the way. The thought of all the things I didn’t do, (or did, but did wrongly) stops me in my tracks sometimes. And I definitely do wish I could go back in time and take advantage of all the things I didn’t; for instance, becoming editor of my favorite campus magazine, or spending more time forging friendships that really mattered in the end. But if time, and four years at Iowa State, has taught me anything is that you make do with what you have at a certain time. You don’t waste time looking back at decisions you made, or didn’t make, wishing you could’ve known better. Time only moves forward, and you know what you know at a given time or you don’t, and you make your life around that present notion of who you are.

So friends, don’t spend time trying to make all the right decisions. Everything is all relative anyway. You see, I’m still convinced those turtle mocha frappes I chugged my freshman year were necessary for my well-being at the time. I still think I made the right choice when I decided not to be part of Greek life. I still think rock-climbing was a great hobby I picked up my junior year, even though I left it my senior year, and that was warranted at the time.

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I still think spending everyday of this past weekend with my best friend is right where I wanted to be. I haven’t needed any of the other stuff. I haven’t needed the parties to meet 20 more people in one night, I haven’t needed the club meeting at 7pm to feel fulfilled, I haven’t needed to feel needed. I’ve been making thousands of stops and trying all kinds of hats. I’ve been functioning on high-speed for the last four years,…and for once, I’m still, I’m satisfied, I’m ok. Iowa State has given me so much, and boy, I’ve been greedy; I’ve just taken, taken, taken. And for this, I’m so grateful. Who gets to calm the hunger of a greedy teenager with the desire to do it all, be everywhere, be everything? Iowa State did that and even gave me dessert.

Besides picking up a diploma on December 20, I picked up much more than that. I picked up some of my ambitions that had been strewn along the way, my dreams for the future, and some of the confidence I’d traded for four years of eyebrow sweat. I’m so much closer to trying on the hat that fits.

Thank you, Iowa State. And thank you all for following along my adventure these last four years. It’s been more than real.

With love,

Mellanie

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