There’s an image of graduation. It is one of victory and change. As you walk across the stage and get your diploma there’s supposed to be a huge smile across your face, maybe a fist thrown into the air, and an image of your parents cheering as loudly as they can. But what you really expect is to feel different. That moment, the moment where the diploma lands into your hands, is supposed to change you. Gone is the person who couldn’t decide on a major. Replaced in your body is supposed to be a mature, wiser individual who’s lined up the perfect job and maybe even the perfect spouse.
But that single ceremony does not define or change you. At least it didn’t for me.
What changed me was the four years I spent at Missouri State University. When I first came to college I went in Undecided only knowing that I would be a member of the color guard for the school’s band. I didn’t know if I would last a year in that program. I ended up lasting three. Some of my best friends are from that experience. I went to Disney, Dallas, and the World Championships for color guard because of that program. At the end of five seasons at Missouri State and eight seasons from my high school color guard I finally decided to have the courage to quit. Being in the color guard brought so much fun and so many new experiences in my life but at a certain point I knew my best days there were gone and it took courage to find out what was outside of that experience.
In college I also stayed at the dorms for several years. I stayed so long because I was lucky. All my roommates were great people. For an only child it was hard to be stuck in a box with another person but it ended up being ok. Every one of my roommates became my friend and in their own way helped to change me. I also proudly became a part of the Woods 2 group. Woods was the first residence hall I lived in and 2 is for the floor my room was on. Those girls helped me adjust to being three hours away from home. They listened to me vent about classes and professors. Every day at five we ate dinner together. I know most people hate the dorms but what I found there was community.
My sophomore year I wanted to join something. I didn’t think I was the sorority type and I didn’t want the all-consuming amount of time and attention that sororities demand. But on a whim I went to an informational meeting for a community service sorority. It’s the small things in life like a smile, saying hello to a stranger, or walking into an informal meeting that sometimes have the biggest outcomes in your life. Gamma Sigma Sigma was everything I wanted. It was small with minimal costs and minimal commitments. Through that organization I learned that I could make a valuable change. I noticed that I could make a difference. I was able to hold five positions in three years. I also found out that there are so many really amazing people out there. Some might not want to join organizations but I found out that through my organization I met people I never would have. There might not have been a lot of girls in my sorority but I knew everyone by name. I held conversations and got to know each and every one of them. We worked side by side at Convoy of Hope, Relay for Life, and so many others. In three years I did over 170 hours of community service with Gamma Sigma Sigma. For someone who had never done volunteering before that was huge. Joining a sorority opened my eyes to opportunities for service to others and to always seek and strive for Friendship, Service, and Equality.
My senior year I committed to friendship, cheap tacos, late movies, and three dollar long islands. I committed to writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November and stopping by the public library weekly for more books to read. Over the years I went from Undecided to Psychology to finally a Creative Writing major and then I got to hear 500 times how I would never get a job with that degree. But I fell in love with books and literature. I learned that there are a million different little ways to write and that if I didn’t like any style I could make my own.
All of these experiences and so many more are what changed me into the person I am now. So when I walked on the stage nothing changed for me. Most of the time life doesn’t change in an instant but a million little instances built up into four years of moments.
I’m not sure what will happen in the next part of in my life. I’ve moved away from Springfield and Blue Springs to start somewhere new. I’ve moved someplace where life can change me again with an open heart and an open mind to the possibilities.
And I’ve come to think that the future is mine to write.