exactly two years ago.
i wasn't expecting that graduating from college would make me feel any different. sure, i was happy to be finished with classes, but i thought the graduation ceremony would be like any other day. instead, i felt remarkably proud and accomplished. annie and i sat next to each other during the ceremony. we were giddy the entire time. we sang along to the school song and took in every word from the guest speaker, julia alvarez. i got to walk into the ceremony holding the banner for my major (probably the last and best time that my last name (adams) would be used to put me in some sort of order). i had the silliest grin on my face the entire time, i was so excited. i had the same big and genuine smile that i had at my bat mitzvah, and surely will have at my wedding. a smile so constant and wide that it hurt.
liz made the class of 2008 graduation speech (clearly, i had very accomplished roommates.) for the weeks before the ceremony, trying to find the perfect words worried her. but, even more so, it also made things real. this was happening, we are graduating. are we ready? just imagine having that task! writing the speech made it more real for her and sooner than for the rest of us. we could all put off the inevitable just a bit longer. but she was great and poised and she captured the moment. liz and i were talking about it a few nights ago, how hard it was for her then and re-reading her speech on the internet, makes me teary. i so distinctly remember the afternoon of emily and i being lazy around the living room and liz sitting on the back of the couch asking us for our opinions. we mulled over which childhood snack she should mention in one of the beginning sentences. it feels like that was just a few weeks ago. anyway, she ended her speech with a thought that couldn't be more relevant to my daily life in manhattan.
"take UVM and vermont with you, by never failing to appreciate the seemingly ordinary, small things in life. spread the positive environment that you fell in love with at UVM in all that you do."
i like how liz said "uvm and vermont." because college was great, as i am sure it is for everyone who attends. but, i feel the experience of living in the green mountain state is unparalleled. and i probably sound like an annoying parent who brags about her children, but really, it was wonderful. my time in vermont prepared me for life outside of it. i learned so much from living in that beautiful state that i'm able to take with me everywhere i go.
toward the last day of classes, annie found a quote that she really connected to. bloom where you are planted. she googled the quote and found that it was in a unitarian universalist sermon. she read the sermon and really connected with it, too. she then looked into the beliefs of the universalists. again, she could relate.
in burlington, the main downtown street (filled with shops and restaurants) is called church street. and at the top of the street, is (but of course) a church. a unitarian universalist church. we knew we had to go. annie and i are both jewish. but we are open to learning about the principles of different religions and taking away their positive attributes. we are also both (perpetually) in the middle of reading huston smith's the world's religions.
so off we went to the salvation army in the north end that saturday and picked up some pretty fancy clothings (circa 1970) and went to church the next morning.
as we walked in on that sunshine-filled day, everyone was asked to write on a paper something they were either thankful for, or something/somebody they wanted people to pray for. they called it "joys and sorrows". i wrote that i was thankful for that morning's sun. annie wrote a rather lengthy message along the lines of being thankful for everyone being together that morning and how wonderful it is to celebrate life and the joy that it brings. we didn't realize they'd be read aloud. and when they were, the messages were pretty standard "pray for my sick uncle", "i'm thankful that the fundraiser was a success". so when they read annie's above-and-beyond letter of love, everyone giggled. and we did, too.
then they asked who was new to the congregation. and we were, so we raised our hands. and they made us both speak into a microphone about ourselves. and everyone applauded us as we told them that we both graduated the week before. and then we sang the beautiful hymns and listened to a truly superb sermon (coincidentally based on exploring what's out there) from their beloved minister (who was having her last sunday there). there was a lot of joy in that church and it was a feel-good day. it was the last sunday i spent as a resident of burlington.
around that time, we were sitting and watching a family of string-instrument players perform on church street. as we were enjoying, an old man was sitting on the bench with us and we all had a remarkably interesting chat for an hour about how many opportunities there are out there for us. how we have to experience everything we possibly can while we're young and to not get tied down by anything or anyone. how life is a chain-link fence and that everything leads to another and that we must experience and appreciate it all. everything we were feeling at the time, he reinforced.
i really felt that it was the beginning of a new period in my life. not just in an "oh, you graduated, welcome to the real world" way, but a deep, deep feeling of change. and i was excited. i felt mentally prepared for what was ahead of me and considerably different than i had arriving in vermont four years earlier. i was ready.
my good friend (hi, will! love you!) just graduated this sunday. i met him when he was a baby freshman and i was a junior. it's amazing to think that he is now finished with UVM. i'm really proud of him. he has changed from an overconfident freshman (haha) into a wonderful and true gentleman. i talked to him a few days before the ceremony, he said he didn't think he'd feel any different after officially graduating. but neither did i and i hope he did, too.