Tug of War

Well, a little more than 72 hours ago I was handed a (fake) diploma and flipped my tassel from the right to the left, signifying that I had accomplished something rather grand and amazing: I graduated college.

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I don’t have a really cool backstory. I’m not a single mom like our student commencement speaker on Sunday is. I didn’t face financial difficulties while in school like so many others of my generation. My path to graduation was relatively smooth, but I’m still overwhelmed that I actually made it through four years (has it really been four years) of this process.

My willingness to get things done went downhill exponentially since returning from Spain. I’d like to think it’s because I fully embraced the slower-paced, “no pasa nada” attitude. Really, it was just a typical case of senioritis. But I did get things done and while I’m waiting on final grades still, I’m 50% sure I did, in fact, pass all of them in the end (just kidding mom and dad I’m 100% sure).

This year, as I’ve noted a few times in this blog, on social media, and in person, has been one of conflicting emotions. Coming home for my senior year meant just that: coming home. It meant leaving a country and boy I grew to love to finish what I started in August 2012. But it also meant starting a year of being at the top of the food chain, of taking classes almost entirely within my fields, of seeing friends day in and day out, and of being 21 (hollering at you Kilroys). Senior year for me also meant a year of lasts: Last Regatta, last Honors mentoring meeting, last advising appointment, last finals week etc. It was a year of lasts before I fully expected to begin a life of firsts abroad once again. And in some cases, those events were indeed the last ones I will ever attend.

But life is funny and God has a great (adjective used loosely) way of laughing at humanity’s plans.

I’ve had a few months to prepare for this. The writing on the wall has been there for awhile as far as the most logistical course of action for my future and I officially accepted my place in the IUPUI Masters in Sports Journalism program in April….and deferred my teaching position in Madrid until 2017.

That decision was heart-wrenching. It was like a blown-up version of my decision senior year of high school to forgo my dream school and number one choice in favor of the one closer to home, offering me a full-ride.

Four years later, that decision turned out to be literally life-changing and I wouldn’t alter the past even if I could. I can only hope that in another four years, the bittersweet feelings of being in Indy for 15 more months also fade away and leave only the best of memories in their place.

And so, with my summer grad course beginning on Monday, I begin another year of lasts, this time for real. Last year of working for my office, last year of dance, last year of classes ever (After 16 years it will be about time). And the last time I will ever walk across a stage in a gown that makes me look fat (come on guys it’s been a few hundred years and graduation fashion hasn’t fixed this problem??) will occur on May 14, 2017 and by August 2017, I will be heading back to Spain, with a bachelor’s AND a master’s degree in tow.

I told my boyfriend once that the act of saying goodbye and leaving was worse than actually being gone. Saying farewell is a conscious decision to part ways. Even if you don’t have another viable option, there’s this overwhelming feeling of guilt along with the sadness and angst and worry wrapped up together in a nice little package from hell. Once you’re actually gone, it gets easier, though there are obviously still moments of incredible sadness that we aren’t together. But it’s not like I can just buy an international ticket on a whim.

I felt the same way about this decision to complete my masters while I have the funding to do so. Up until the moment when I sent the email accepting my masters placement and deferring my teaching position, I agonized. Was this really fair to Ale to make him do another year of long distance? Did I really want to put myself through another year of school when I was already struggling to finish the race strong with this first degree? Did I really want to be stuck in Indy when a lot of my friends were moving on after graduation?

And then I sent the emails and notified everyone. Effectively I “went through security” and I was at peace.

Logistically and financially, this is the best of all possible scenarios. It means that I go to Europe as fully-equipped academically as I possibly can be to find a job in my field after my teaching stint. It allows me to graduate with two degrees with a small fraction of the debt most people have when they leave school. It means I’ll be around for both my brothers’ graduations. And it ensures that once I move across the Atlantic, I can put down roots without feeling like I missed out on a great educational opportunity.

So here’s to one more year of feeling torn between two places, but on a good note, another year of memories with my best friends, in one of my favorite cities in the world, of amazing opportunities, of learning from the best faculty, and spending a lot of time with my family.

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