I spent way, way, way too long thinking about how to decorate my college graduation cap.
At my high school, we didn’t decorate our graduation caps. The boys wore red caps, and the girls wore white. Everyone looked exactly the same, like we were leaving high school with a clean slate. We were ready to form college identities and begin the rest of our lives.
I left high school extremely worried about the future. I was in a relationship, but we were going to different schools hundreds of miles away. I was heading to a top-notch university, but still wasn’t convinced it was the right school for me. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for a career, let alone how I was going to do it. I didn’t know if I could be away from home, the only place I had roots. But I did know I had the chance to go into college with a clean slate. I had the chance to decide what happened next, in a place where no one knew who I was or what I was capable of.
Four years later, I barely recognize that shy seventeen-year-old girl who was scared of her own identity. I broke up with my high school boyfriend, and that breakup forced me to figure out who I wanted to be, on my own. I joined and left clubs on campus that weren’t the right fit, eventually finding PRSSA-UD, the Social Media Ambassador Program, and Gamma Sigma Sigma. Friendships came and went, giving me the people who inspire me to be my best self as I realized a healthy relationship should never make you unhappy. I studied abroad in the greatest city in the world (slight bias, I know), gaining a new love of travel and the confidence to be truly independent. Without me ever really noticing, the shy seventeen-year-old turned into a loud, outspoken leader who aims to inspire others as much as they, in turn, have inspired me.
Somewhere in these four years, I became a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical. There’s a song in the second act of Hamilton titled “One Last Time,” where George Washington tells Alexander Hamilton he is stepping down, letting the nation move forward without him. This song always hit a chord with me because anyone who knows me well knows I am not good at goodbyes. Leaving my hometown is nothing compared to how hard it is for me to comprehend leaving UD. How do I leave a place that shaped so much of who I am today? How do I leave the friends that turned into family, and organizations I poured my heart and soul into? But just like Washington, I know it’s time for me to step down, and move forward. It’s time for me to learn how to say goodbye.
My graduation cap is done, but my goodbyes are not. Over the next two weeks, I hope that my family and friends can teach me how to say goodbye. Letting go isn’t easy, but the time has finally come. I am leaving this school excited about the future, but I will never forget that I am, first and foremost, a Blue Hen.
Thank you, University of Delaware, for everything you have given me for the past four years. Now, teach me how to say goodbye, one last time.