Graduation: More than just an arch of balloons

by Michelle Monroy

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As graduation approaches, I think about the brave souls who will pass under the arc of balloons with their friends and families watching them.

One foot following the other, you’ll try to remember how to walk for this precious moment your parents prepared you for.

“Go to college,” they said. “It’s good for your future,” they said. Now, here you are. Graduation is staring you in the face as your cap and gown hang out in your room watching you finish the semester.

Congratulations on a job well done. You’ve successfully spent four, maybe five or six years chugging down venti-sized Starbucks beverages, trudging the steps of Hepner Hall, napping in the Love Library and clutching your computer’s screen begging Google to magically whisper the answers of tomorrow’s exam.

Now you’re at the end of your stay at San Diego State. You’ll take your last walk through Hardy Tower and the barely finished Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union that you helped fund for future generations to enjoy, whether monetarily or in tolerating the construction. You’re not only graduating, but you’ve also witnessed the four-year transformation of the Union from a hole in the ground to a magnificent three-story building. Congrats on seeing the making of history, you lucky Aztec.

If you’re really lucky, maybe Oggi’s will open before you leave so you can clink your glass with that shiny degree.

With that degree in hand, your future seems brighter, or maybe that’s just the blinding lights making you sweat as you walk across the stage with thousands watching. Now what? It took you years to get a 15-second sprint across that platform. You did what they said, right?

Now as the lights fade and the wave of applause becomes another echo in your memories, the ugly question looms in, pouncing to destroy your graduation celebration—what are you going to do now?

Until this point, you’ve been sheltered by a fort built of books and FAFSA applications, waiting for the day you grow up. You probably thought the early-20s version of yourself would be much cooler than you are now.

But now the education shield is inching away. Undergrad students, I recommend you hide under the shell for a little while longer through grad school so you can hang in the cocoon of safety for a little longer.

Grad students, God bless each and every one of you. I commend you brave souls for pursuing knowledge to the end and I salute you for racking up the loans that you now have to pay back.

But growing and graduating doesn’t come without compensation. You’re handed a blank canvas from a young age. Your parents and other adults paint this world with straight lines and solid colors—everything has direction and structure.

“Don’t paint off the canvas,” they said. “Don’t dirty your clothes with paint,” they said. But when you get to this point, you realize the world is round and not the square-textured canvas they gave you. Your canvas may be triangular, circular or rectangular. It may have doodles and squiggles galore, or it may have so many stripes it’ll make a zebra jealous. Sometimes it’s colored outside of the lines. Sometimes the colors are matte, metallic or a mystery.

What we need to realize as we pass through the holy threshold of balloons is we paint our own canvas. We create our own pictures. We go to school to get brushes and colors to paint with. Throw away the stencil and ruler they gave you. The best things you have to offer the world are the things you create yourself.

As you make the switch from backpack to briefcase and from jeans to slacks, remember: The world is your canvas—now stain it with your color.


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