As Facebook kindly reminded me, last year I graduated college. After three and half years of hard work, I finished college magna cum laude at 20. It was pretty bitchin’….on paper, at least.
In real life, graduating during the semester from a college that doesn’t have a winter ceremony feels exactly like this:
It was pretty just me celebrating as everyone else was sleep-deprived and exhausted from finals season. I didn’t even get an email, like “hey good job! You graduated!” I kept having to double-check that it was indeed real, that I was actually done and could go home. I felt like a kid again, asking my mom if it was okay if I went to the sleepover.
Graduating was anticlimactic. But more than that, I was scared witless. I had absolutely nothing ahead of me. Sure I told people bullshit answers like “oh I’m going to go study for the LSAT and maybe go to Romania”. It was somewhat true but my heart wasn’t in either of those things. I truly thought I’d just go home to Indiana, curl up like a cat in some warm place, and stay there till I died.
I felt like the past three and a half years I was supposed to be recognizing my potential and discovering my true calling. Instead I learned a bunch of theories and watched a bunch of Netflix. What was I going to do??? Who was I going to become??? Where was my mandatory Participation Trophy that was going to lull all of my insecurities ???
But that all changed when I got home after the 17 hour drive from Boston to Indy. Because I went upstairs to my bedroom, unloaded my luggage, and looked over at the crib sitting the window. Inside of it was a coughing, sick two year old, hair nappy from her sweaty sleep, onesie pjs tight across her baby tummy.
That Christmas my parents decided to host a SafeFamily baby over the holidays; it was a good thing too because our adorable little visitor hadn’t anywhere else to go. We ended up having her a little over two months. When she woke up in the morning, sick and crying, my heart was so moved. I adored her. She adored all of us. She was so doted on; every little funny thing she did we clapped and cooed for, every boo-boo kissed, every meal spoiled by slipping her an M&M just for being so stinkin’ cute. She was just on the precipice of being a toddler but still little enough to take naps, ride in a stroller, and burrow into you when you held her.
And when she eventually went home to her sisters and mother who had gotten housing and childcare during this time, it was pretty devastating (RULE #1: DON’T GET ATTACHED) but what was right. We weren’t to know then that we would see the girls and their mom often, for pizza and birthday parties, and get to still pour into their lives. The precious little baby is still in our lives and hearts.
That experience opened my family up to be able to be the one we are now; we were able to adopt my beloved brother and sister this past year. It also made me put my own struggles into context as they paled in comparison to an invisible world I wasn’t aware of until now: the one where children slip through the cracks, mothers are given impossible odds, and the government is very, very flawed.
Also during this time, I set off to Romania, with literally no expectations or clear sense of purpose. Over those three months, I made relationships that are so pure and generous that I will forever be tied to that place. I learned so much about healing, survival, service, love, and patience. I found a home there.
Which brings me to this year. I’m still fuzzy on what my future looks like but I don’t feel the fear of the unknown anymore. Long gone are the petty anxieties (“what do I tell this random high school acquaintance on FB what I’m up to??”), the random paranoia (“will my professors be disappointed that they ever taught such a waste of space??”), the impossible comparisons (“you’re not Amal Clooney and you never will be!!”).
I have simply decided to trust that I am a capable person who will do good things. In June, I will be taking a year-long internship with IJM, an international non-profit that combats human and sex trafficking, in SouthEast Asia. I’m excited and confident about it. It’s a culmination of all my passions and I’m so psyched be offered it.
Who knows what this next year will bring? Maybe I’ll get married (hahahahaha), maybe my parents will adopt more kids until we have 11 and can finally beat the snooty Catholic family in our town who reminds us they’re bigger all time (my mom just said no to that one), maybe my friends at Mana Deschisa can finally open up their new facility dedicated to families and single mothers. Maybe this year we are all pushed to be a little more kinder and patient and loving in this scary political atmosphere. Maybe I’ll finally figure out exactly where my lip actually ends so my lipstick doesn’t look so Kylie Jenner. WHO KNOWS???
Last year, I had a degree in my hand and a blank space (not unlike the Taylor Swift one) looming over my future. This year, I have the support of even bigger family, the love from Romania, and trust in my purpose.
It’s been pretty good.