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When I graduated from high school in June 2009, I spent commencement in a sticky gymnasium because rain had soaked the football field earlier in the afternoon. I remember my gown trapping the sweat that trickled down my arms. There was no air conditioning.
Last Saturday, I graduated from Bryn Mawr College. And boy, did it pour. But this time, it felt like a breath of fresh air. Rain wasn’t in the forecast, so when I woke up on Saturday, I was dismayed by the clouds in the sky but not defeated. And besides, commencement would be outside under the sturdiest and biggest tent I have ever seen, regardless of rain or shine, so I knew that nothing would get in the way of my big day.
My entire clan came to see me graduate—my parents, twin brother, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, my boyfriend and his parents. Nineteen people in total. They took up the majority of a row, cheering, laughing and smiling the whole afternoon. Having these people together under one roof (quite literally) to watch a milestone unfold, I realized the full extent of their love and support.
Bryn Mawr also set up some chairs next to the front of the tent for people to get a more up-close view of their graduates. During the middle of the ceremony, I peered outside and saw that people had popped open umbrellas. At first, I thought that was strange—the sun was nowhere in sight; they couldn’t possibly be shading themselves from any rays. But a closer look made me realize that we were in the middle of a downpour. Before long, rainwater spilled down the sides of the tent in heavy streams. Those who had been content outside found cover under the tent, filling in empty seats next to graduates. There may have even been some rumbles of thunder. But the roaring of cheers and claps for the graduates as we received our diplomas made us forget that a storm was blowing through.
My graduation day was filled with so many other meaningful memories: Photos with friends. A “garden party,” traditionally held outdoors on the lawn with the other graduates, their families and faculty and staff members, but because of the rain, needed to be rushed indoors and set up by my “garden party girl,” a soon-to-be sophomore named Kayla. An endearing and beautiful speech at my garden party from my freshman-year writing seminar professor, mentor and friend. Dinner out with my family. A thick slice of fourless chocolate cake. And time spent with my incredible friends in a cozy dorm room late at night, after our families had left, hanging out one last time at Bryn Mawr—for now.
Last Saturday also marked a feat—I am now the first in my immediate family to graduate from college. (Twin bro’s turn comes next year.) And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family (especially my parents), friends, professors and more. The enormous amount support I felt last week continues to resonate with me today.
Now it’s time to take on the world.