Ten Years Ago: Graduation Memories

This weekend I was in Virginia for my cousin's graduation from Roanoke Catholic.

I graduated from the same school ten whole years ago. I knew it had been that long, but it didn't really seem true until I was looking at the program for the ceremony and saw "Class of 2016" written on the front. Ten years! A full decade. What's most amazing to me about that isn't the time that has passed, but how easily it is to remember exactly how I felt back then.

Like anything was possible, but not really in an adventurous way. I grew up in Roanoke and loved my church and my school and was only going two hours away for college. I had been so predictable for so long, and I still wasn't sure if I wanted to be the same person or a different one.

I remember the exact dress I wore, and how my mom bought it for me when we were on vacation earlier that spring. I don't remember where we were but it was a gorgeous linen sundress that fit perfectly and made me feel like a grown-up--it's one of the few pieces of my wardrobe that I haven't gotten rid of over the years. The salesperson checking us out overheard us talking about graduation and asked me if I was excited about high school. I balked, wondering how young I actually looked as I told her that I was graduating from high school, not 8th grade.

I was dating someone but I was still in love with my ex-boyfriend, and both relationships were messy and confusing. I broke up with the boyfriend that summer before leaving for Longwood, and I remember feeling like I just needed to move on and I'd figure everything else out as soon as the fall semester started.

I tried, but there was a lot to figure out. So many new freedoms that I wasn't used to. My friend Wes texted me soon after I arrived on campus that first year and asked if I wanted to go to the park. "The park?" I replied, "It's 10 PM." He laughed at my surprise and we went to the park and sat on the swings, talking for hours, which quickly became a tradition of ours. It took me months to wear flip-flops to class, and I never did muster up the courage to chew gum in an academic building.

As I sat there in the church last Saturday, watching the excited faces of a class of 17 and 18 year-olds, I couldn't help but be astonished at how different my life is now than I thought it would be then. The friends I thought I'd know forever, the church I believed I'd always be a part of, the family business I would manage with my parents.

I didn't know that I would move so much, or that I would marry an incredibly tall, incredibly kind man who knows exactly who I am and makes me feel like I'm enough for him every single day (I think at the time I must have believed that the men--boys--in your life either drove you crazy or made you cry). I didn't know that I would battle anxiety with every transition I encountered in my life, or, more importantly, that when it comes you don't have to suffer silently through it without help. I didn't know that I'd make friends in college who would stick with me into adulthood, even when you've fallen out and think it's over.

And I didn't know that I'd one day be so comfortable with myself. Apparently ten years is enough time to grow up and become who you're really supposed to be.

I wouldn't change a thing.