Archives for posts with tag: Graduation

I went home to watch my brother graduate from high school this past weekend.

My grandparents, Aunt, Sister, Nephew and long-time family friend all came down from up north for the celebration.

It was the first time I’d ever gotten to see my nephew Finn. And so we hung out a lot.

We had a man trip too – just men, no women. We went up to D.C., my dad, pop-pop and I that is, to see the World War II Memorial. My Pop-pop served during WWII and has told me many stories I wish I could remember exactly as he tells them.

It’s bigger than that, but you can check it out for yourself. It was a good trip home and good to see family again and especially good to see the kid graduate….


I had a cup of coffee each of the past two days, which I usually don’t do for fear of my heart exploding out of my chest, excessive fidgeting, lack of sleep, etc., but I’m glad I did because I sort of stumbled upon – with help – what I’ve truly come to learn and value over these past years in a way that isn’t so easy to explain, or even grasp in concept still myself.  It sounds like a lot, but honestly it’s quite simple.  It’s like when your searching and searching for your keys ’cause your in a rush, in a hurry to get somewhere quickly because you fear if you don’t some negative consequence might befall you that you’d rather not deal with, only, when you reach down into your pocket you find them jangling in the fabric brushing against your skin.

I guess I should back up a bit.  Just a little to let you gain some perspective.  This past weekend I graduated from college.  I did it.  It doesn’t feel like I did much, but there were diplomas and cupcakes and family and gowns and so I’m pretty sure I did something in the past few years that lead to this.  I’ve always admired success, always sought after it with everything I had – if you could speak to my mom she’d be willing to tell you some embarrassing wet-my-pants stories of me not wanting to quit playing to take a break and use the john.  Somewhere along the way – before I even came to college – I started linking girls, attention, money, etc. as symbols of success and fame.  These characteristics would serve well to describe the types of people who the majority of Americans feel are successful, would they not?  It’s not a complete list I know, but the point is I started thinking that there was a path one had to follow in order to achieve these things I thought I wanted.

I had goals and lots of them.  When I was 13 I wrote my current ones down on a sheet of paper and posted it above my bed to look at every night before going to sleep.  Now, even though those goals may have been a little far shot – replacing Derek Jeter as shortstop for the New York Yankees – I look back at them now and wonder where along the trip I got off?  I’m not saying I’m going back to baseball, I haven’t picked up a baseball and actually thrown it in years, but what I’m more or less asking is what happened to the innocence I held in lofting up such beautiful dreams?

I picked marketing as a major because I thought I wanted to do advertising when I came in.  I thought about money and about creating messages and cool slogans with huge celebrities and sports stars and then somewhere in the past year, it just sort of vanished.  I won’t really narrow, or pin point one little thing, any specific event that really pushed me forward, but just know that all those things, all those miniature events and happenings started driving me in other directions.  It felt as if I had almost been sedated the past three years and had woken to find my clothes wrinkly and stained and drool stringing from my chin.  It felt I had finally woken to see that while there definitely are “paths”, they are honestly just something created to provide structure and guidance for ease of learning/life/whatever you might want to plan for.  I realized that I, a senior in college, had the whole damn world in front of myself and no one to tell me no to whatever I wanted to do – legally.

I sat drinking coffee the last couple of days, talking about how I truly viewed things, how I really felt and honestly it was amazing.  It was sort of this realization that I had indeed come upon myself; that I  finally felt fully tangible to my own touch, no longer a soul living inside a paper mache exterior waiting to be cracked open and sent sprawling onto the floor.  There was a word that kept popping up, kept being used that I know now very well and have been getting to know better and better over the past year, that what I had found in life, or rather gotten closer to, was passion.  Not the half-naked-man-holding-scantly-clad-woman on book covers right before the wal-mart registers type stuff, but the real deal… for everything.

I found that, for most things in my life, I had certain feelings and thoughts and those thoughts and feelings combined together formed opinions which eventually made/will make decisions and the whole world is happy now and everything else.  The point of writing this I guess, is that it’s important to find things your passionate about in life.  I thought, this past weekend, while sitting waiting to be called to receive my diploma, about the things I wanted to achieve, how I wanted to help others with what I do.  I thought about how crazy some people may think others are at some points, how sometimes things can be seen as waists of talent, or bad decisions, etc., but honestly who really knows in the long run?  You, somewhere in the future right?  The you, who has learned, who has educated themselves through general interest, or first-hand experience.

I’m not saying it’s bad to follow a path, not at all.  I’m saying sometimes you have to check that path to see if the ground is sturdy enough to carry you all the way forward.  And yea, some paths cross and diverge and everything, but isn’t that what makes life so damn interesting?  Isn’t that what makes interacting with each other so unique that you can sit down and talk, about nothing in general, and just enjoy it for it’s own existence, it’s own happening?  What happened to liking things just because of the way they made you feel?  What happened to being able to openly admit that?  Why are we all so afraid, so hidden from everyone else that we feel we have to conform, or mold into what is seen as successful?  Why not fail?  Why not live?  Why not attempt at dreams outside your path if you feel the passion?  It’s not wrong to be filled with questions.  Not wrong so long as you seek the answers.

Over 1000 words later, your wondering why you just spent time reading this; why you even bothered continuing this far.  Well, maybe it’s because you feel the way I do, maybe you don’t.  Honestly you feel the way you’d like to because I’m not telling you to do anything.  I’d just like to enjoy the things I do, love the people I choose to interact with and live with intention to do things as I see done right and well.  I’d like to close my eyes when I go and know that the things I did, the things I truly cherished, were monumental.

I can hardly remember a time when searching “Virginia Tech” didn’t return pages upon pages of April 16th results. I should be able to – I searched it many times while applying and dreaming of what college life would be like – but I can’t seem to be able to think back that far. I don’t know if it was the countless formulas, the 17 mile double workout days, the continually changing and fading faces of my surroundings, or the blurring, whirling, smack-the-snot-out-of-you feeling of the whole experience, but that time period is gone and never to be recovered.

I’m a senior. I’m graduating in less than a month – 26 days, you know, roughly – and I’ve been doing the whole “looking back on my experiences/what have I learned?” deal. I know, it’s not amazingly original, or even really penetrating average, but honestly, we all do it. You get to the end of something significant and you want to feel it was worth it; that you grabbed onto some tangible feelings and stuffed them in your pockets to take them, along with all your other useless junk, with you to some other place to start your “real life”.

My first day of classes at Tech, William Morva escaped from Montgomery Regional hospital, killing a hospital security guard and going on to kill a police officer, launching a day long, nationally televised, man-hunt. We didn’t have classes. My grandma, after numerous attempts, finally got through to my cell and asked if I was all right. My mother’s call followed. They caught him before afternoon practice – which we attended – and within a week it felt as if nothing had changed. We talked of the incident like it was a dream, the only real connection and reminder of the actual incident being a small memorial of flowers on the Huckleberry Trail – a paved path which we avoid at all costs, opting instead to run through the various dirt trails and roads that extend into the foothills around campus. This didn’t feel personal. This wasn’t our tragedy.

The week leading up to April 16th was filled with excitement and focus. I had recently run 14:26 over 5k and thought, at the time, that I had a shot of placing in the 5k of the ACC Championships that weekend. We trained and joked and I entertained thoughts of victory celebrations and humble nods to those I had beaten – I finished a “humble” 14th place to skip ahead. Then suddenly it was all gone. Nothing seemed firm and consistent anymore. I can remember looking out my window and seeing a man in a bulletproof vest and black baseball cap, hand gun raised to his shoulder, yelling at students returning from class to get in the closest building. I can remember the students faces, blank with fear and confusion as they ran to safety. I remember the rumors spreading throughout the dorms of guns and deaths and the surreal feeling that took hold when familiar images, places you could describe by architectural design, flashed forth on every channel you changed to on the T.V. I remember it eventually ending and the death count escalating in broken updates like a friend feeding the score of a lopsided football game by texts. Then going over and sitting, with a girlfriend at the time, on my lap, crying uncontrollably against my shoulder. It all happened so quickly, so immediately that we had no time to think. It was just reaction.

I remember walking off campus to get away, being stopped by a Japanese news group, commenting briefly on the day and later feeling ashamed I had even stopped to talk. I remember watching planet earth with teammates and friends, escaping it all for a few hours, only to return to my dorm later and cry in the shower; sobbing quietly bent over against the wall as the water washed over my body. I remember all these things so clearly and yet, the rest seems a blur.

Over the past four years there have been three shootings, one decapitation, and one suicide – to my knowledge. I did not imagine these things while dreaming of college. Hopefully no one does. But this is the reality and as I sat, riding back from this year’s ACC Track and Field Championships, the 4th anniversary of April 16th was coming to a close. I had attended every candlelight vigil before yesterday. I had stood at the first and chanted, sung, cried with all the rest, an experience I will never ever forget. I chanted at the second. I stood at the third.

To be honest, I’m glad I was not at the forth. Not for the sake of remembering, for if you truly feel that you cannot hold someone in your heart without being present at a certain time and place, than limited are you in honoring and remembering those you love. More so though, for the lonesome feeling that overcomes me each of the past times I’ve gone. Almost all the faces I saw that day streaming with tears are gone. When I start talking about the day now people just nod and listen out of respect. They offer nothing, for they have nothing to draw from and I can tell that sometimes they feel uncomfortable; their eyes averting my own or their face goes stiff and mouth forms a straight line under their nose. Gone are most of those who experienced it first hand and so now I am left to stand with those who respectfully remember, but yet the memory they are honoring is not exactly a memory of the events, but more of a recap of what happened. It isn’t their fault. They love and hope just the same and so I do not call them pretenders, for they are not, or hoard the memory for myself, for it is not mine to hoard. The memory is in itself everyone’s combined and so everyone is entitled to it, but this does not bring those faces back and does not change the feeling of detachment.

I cannot share the immensity, or even put into words the feeling of rushing to stand in Cassell Coliseum as we chanted “Let’s Go Hokies” louder than we ever had at any sporting event. I cannot explain the gripping reality of the President of the United Sates’ presence merely twenty feet away in reaction to an American tragedy. It is this inability that makes me lonely among so many happy smiling faces. I have had many, many beautiful experiences in the past four years with the most amazingly courageous and heartfelt people I have discovered thus far. And so I continually ask myself, why is it that I should remember April 16th so much more than those? Because it was a moment of extreme sorrow? Or maybe it was a puncture in the bubble all college students surround and consequently protect themselves in. I could and will, in my own mind, forever search for an answer.

Riding home last night though, on the bus, sitting with teammates – one a fellow graduating senior – I thought yet again about what I had learned. Sitting there, enjoying their company I could only think of one thing. The simple fact that we all endure; that throughout time, man and woman have endured through countless experiences and have each time gained strength and continued on. The thought that even as we sat sharing, laughing, and sitting in the comfort of companionship, we would always carry the memories of that day and the lives of those lost deeply within our hearts was a warm feeling in itself.

I cannot say all that I’ve learned in one post, or even if I had the next four years to explain. I cherish all that I have experienced, the good and the bad, for I feel it is what we draw from both that make us who we are. It’s amazing how fast it slips by though. Four years of memories all culminating in one exchange of paper and a handshake. It’s almost like a dream you’d rather not leave. I’m graduating. I’m done. I don’t want to leave. I know I will one day. I know I will go on and start a new life, get married to a beautiful woman and start a family – last two I’m very hopeful for. With all the dreams I have remaining and all the adventures and experiences that await me I could easily feel overwhelmed, but I can honestly say I don’t. I feel calm. I feel ready, for I know throughout all I will endure, because these are the things I remember.