Today I found out what college is about. Somewhere between bleaching the black part out of my hair and feeling too nauseus to finish my spicy green beans at the Thai restaurant, I felt it. Whatever that thing is that makes life worthwhile--that feeling that is all at once happy, sad, grateful, regretful, wonderful, and horrible. I felt it as I hugged my roommate and constant college companion goodbye. I choked out a few promises to stay in touch, and wished she would just leave so I could bawl without her watching.
I felt it as Collin and I shared our last coffee (iced soy latte and seasonal chilly beverage) and our well-wishes.
But I felt it most as I stood in front of a crowd of people, my family included, and listened to not one, but two of my favorite professors list off my accomplishments and potential. I was being honored as a top senior in my department (well, actually two departments--Sociology and Women's Studies). I knew the water works would soon appear as the keynote speaker found that spot in my heart that always gets me. Damn him. When it was my turn to be publicly praised, I held on to a straight face by a floss-thin nerve. When Dr. Maughan pulled me a little closer, my face burned red-hot as that feeling flooded my already shaking limbs. The stone-faced audience didn't seem impressed, but I guess it wasn't their moment. By the time the second professor got up to talk about me, I was a hot mess. Even after the public praise, talking to a long-time friend and non-traditional student made us both teary. Once I start, it's like a leaky faucet--or maybe like what happens to faucets after you've shut off the water supply to the house. An unpredictable burst of noisy water--What?
Tomorrow morning, I will give a speech about what I thought college meant a month ago. I still stand behind that speech, but the past two weeks have given me a renewed perspective on my education. College is not about the coursework, or at least, that's the bare minimum. College is about finding yourself through other people: friends, mentors, and family. College is about growing up (sucky as it is) and discovering that you can do more than you thought.
As much as I detest crying in front of people, at least I feel something powerful. I care deeply about my relationships, my work, and my future. Any and all of those things deserve my tears, and doggonnit, if I've got to cry in front of a bunch of people, so be it.
Now if I could just find a way to keep my make-up looking stellar while crying...