5 Years Later

I graduated from college five years ago this weekend. It's seems surreal to think that I've been out of college longer than I was in college, especially since school had such a big impact on my life. I suppose it could be cliche to say that college changed me, but it would be untrue to claim otherwise. 

I've told the story more times than I can count - I was a shy freshman, so shy I had zero friends. I didn't get along with my roommates because they didn't have the fear of God stricken into them every time they encountered a social situation, and college is basically one big social situation. I remember walking to the Mexican restaurant near campus every Friday night, and bringing it back to my dorm so that I could eat my burrito, alone, while watching TV. I was one of those students in the library at nine o'clock on a Saturday night, because I had nothing else to do. 

Eventually I got better. Robert followed me to Cal Lutheran a year later, which brought me out of my shell a little. I started participating in classes, and my professors actually noticed me. I made the terrifying decision to start applying for different activities on campus, though rejection was always my biggest fear.

I felt encouraged to start participating, not because my school made me feel like I should, but because they thought that I could. They were gentle with fragile me, though it was terrifying at first.

I truly believe that it was my school, my peers and my professors and the administrators on campus, that changed me. I went from shy freshman with no friends to giving a speech at my graduation. Five years later, this is the first time I've actually looked back at that speech. 

Good morning CLU family, and congratulations fellow graduates. We are here today to celebrate the achievements that we have accomplished in these past few years and look forward to the successes that we will undoubtedly have in the future. Before we look back at our time here, however, let’s thank those who helped make our education possible. Will all the graduates here join me in thanking our parents, family members, professors, and the administration and regents of California Lutheran University.

Four years ago, I was sitting in my high school stadium, watching my friends and classmates get up and give their graduation speeches. Four years ago, I was satisfied hearing them speak words of congratulations and recount the endless memories we shared from the previous years. I came to CLU completely content staying in that position of following others; however this school derailed that satisfaction when I was forced to confront the fact that every single person here has leadership qualities in them, including myself. It’s the price we pay coming to a liberal arts college: we are challenged to develop the traits within us that we are afraid of. And we have all accomplished this goal, albeit in a variety of ways.

We became leaders the moment we first stepped foot onto this campus, through community service projects and involvement fairs. In the years following we became athletes, senators, presidential hosts, RAs, PAs, club presidents, and choir members. We studied abroad and participated in Habitat for Humanity projects. Through these roles we were able to become leaders not only on the Cal Lu campus, but leaders within our community, and, essentially, the world. The opportunities for growth at this school have been endless, and we have all developed qualities through these opportunities that we may not have had we decided to go somewhere else.

For most of us, life at CLU hasn’t just been a collection of classes and lectures, but about all of the things in between. Continuing education outside of the classroom has always been a value of this university, and it has been a collection of these experiences which have allowed us to grow and flourish in a community that is welcoming of all people.

When looking back, we will remember painting the rocks, going to Chuck E. Cheese for Club Lu, and worshipping with the Lord of Life Congregation on Sunday evenings. But beyond these things, we will remember the friends that we made and the lessons we learned, because while we learned so much from our professors, we have learned just as much from each other. These experiences can’t be fully expressed through a diploma or GPA, but they will be remembered through our continual friendships and, of course, Facebook.

When I moved onto this campus as a freshman, I had no idea what I was in store for. I knew classes would be tough and living with a roommate even tougher, but I never knew that being here would change who I am. When I came here four years ago, I never imagined that I would have the confidence or opportunity to plan ASCLU-G retreats, compete with the Ivy League at Harvard National Model United Nations, or mingle with donors and regents at different events on campus. And I don’t think any of us expected the overwhelming chaos and tremendous amount of fun we would have at the indescribable I truly believe that we have been prepared by this school for whatever our futures have in store for us.

Regardless of what and who we become, we have been given the gift of integrity and hard work and have developed a passion for serving others. I think that these qualities which have been entrusted to us exemplify those required to live in our world today. So, regardless of our major or the activities we involved ourselves in while here, we have those things common. We will always be a family because of the education we received here.

Standing here is bitter-sweet because I know that I will never again have a class in the humanities building or sleep in a room in Grace hall, and if it weren’t for these things I wouldn’t be the person I am today. But I feel better knowing that I am prepared for what lies ahead, because we will not only leave this school with a degree, but with the confidence and character to continue our leadership beyond of this university. So, congratulations, class of 2009, and would you all please give each other a standing ovation.

Five years later, it still is bittersweet. I can only remember pieces now, of my dorm rooms and classes and Friday nights at Club Lu. I remember being so scared at living on my own and so nervous for my college classes. But I do believe it led me to where I am today. It's all part of the process we call life, but those four years will forever be in my heart as some of the most challenging, inspiring, and best years of my life.

It also just so happens that tomorrow will be the first commencement ceremony I've attended at CLU since Robert graduated in 2010. I am BEYOND proud of Emily, my assistant and, more importantly, a dear friend. I'm feeling especially sappy today, but I will be posting next week on what a humbling and incredible experience it has been to mentor this sweet, talented girl for the past year and a half.

Congratulations Emily, and congratulations to the class of 2014!

And now, because I couldn't not post a collage of pictures from my time at Cal Lutheran.


Joelle Duff said...

"Regardless of what and who we become, we have been given the gift of
integrity and hard work and have developed a passion for serving others.... We will always be a family
because of the education we received here." What a great reminder Joelle. I'm happy I get to be a part of your memories. xo.

Joelle Duff said...

Here's your speech on video, you can skip the first half of my narration ;-)

Joelle Duff said...

I have such fond memories of CLU too. I cannot believe that it's been three years since graduation for me! Robert was one of my RAs freshman year. :] I always thought he was a super cool dude. I hope to make it to homecoming this year. I was at that graduation for Paul and I remember your speech, so wonderful. :]

Joelle Duff said...

I want to make it back for homecoming too! It's amazing to see how much the school has changed since I was there. And thanks so much for the sweet compliments Samantha. I was so nervous that day! xoxo