Four years ago, I sat down for my first class at Weber State. It was intro to literature, and my professor didn’t make us go around the room to share fun facts that aren’t ever fun, so we were off to a great start.

She gave us a syllabus and the list of books we’d be reading for the semester and sent us on our way. I spent twenty minutes doing homework that night and thought I’d been lied to about college my whole life. It wasn’t hard. Senior year of high school had been more taxing. I floated through the first few assignments in a haze of naiveté and bliss.

My reality check soon hit me: In the second week, I found out I’d only signed up for twelve credits when my scholarship required fifteen. I lost my scholarship and was suddenly left to come up with $1800 in three days to pay for the semester.

I was working 20 hours a week making minimum wage; the closest I’d ever been to $1800 was my parent’s supposed college fund before they spent it to take our family on a cruise. I dropped my classes and felt like a total failure.

I considered my options: I could look for full-time jobs that didn’t require a degree, I could move into the forest and strike up a life as a nomadic wanderer or I could suck it up and wait the semester out to try again.

Looking back now, I’m so proud of the outcome. I took 18-credit hour semesters to make up for my early mistakes. I hounded my advisors for scheduling advice and successfully avoided taking a single math course, which is probably the only reason I made it this far. On a whim, I joined the campus newspaper, which was simultaneously electrifying and terrifying.

I’m almost an entirely different person than the girl who sat in intro to literature. I had opinions but didn’t project them. I believed in things but didn’t fight for them. I was scared of things and shied away from them. I wanted to learn things but didn’t go after them.

During my time at Weber, I’ve written books, essays that were only partially plagiarized in idea and articles that angered both a good portion of The Signpost’s readership and most of my family. I’ve stayed up nights for assignments and I’ve been on campus for fifteen hours for night classes.

I’m not “just” graduating from Weber. I sacrificed a lot of energy to make this happen, and I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of you. We made it through the bizarre zoology course that really doesn’t seem like it should have been required and the uphill pathways in winter. We battled four years of flu seasons and rambling professors and students who talked more than should have been allowed.

Weber has a large non-traditional student population: dads coming to school for the first time, moms coming back after taking a break for the first baby and another and another, career-changers and self-starters and second-chance-believers.

We sat by each other in class, and we wrote our essays, and we internally groaned over every added homework assignment, and we never really knew each other or each other’s struggles.

You never recovered from the incident freshman year. He’s been reeling from an awful breakup for months. She’s trying to figure out how to tell her parents. I’m making mistakes and apologizing, and I’m hurting people but not trying to.

We’re failing assignments and begging to re-do them. We’re crying in bathroom stalls between classes. We’re laughing so hard at lunch we’re hunched all the way over. We’re making fun of our teachers but still writing emails to thank them. We’re making friends in classes that we’ll never speak to again once the class ends.

We were in this together, but we never understood it.

Now we’re ready to put on our caps and put this time in our lives behind us. We’re applying for jobs or dental schools or internships or master’s programs. We’re developing finals colds and feeling stressed about things we can’t quite diagnose. The future looms over us, and we feel like we’re supposed to know what to do next. But we don’t.

Among us are future doctors and salespeople and and tax attorneys, because somebody has to do it. Some of us will end up working dead-end jobs at call centers, even though we vowed we wouldn’t.

We’ll travel and cook and move away and come home again. We’ll make friends and lose them and get haircuts we hate, but we’ll look back and hate them a little less. We’ll forget about that assignment in history that took six hours and caused a horrible acne breakout the next morning. We’ll forget about the boy across the hall that we never went up to.

We’ll make money (but not a lot) and call our parents (but not enough), and we’ll keep making mistakes and apologizing.

We’ll vote and make playlists and keep staying up too late and we’ll try our very best.

Soon we’ll put on our caps, but I hope we never put Weber totally behind us. You don’t have to bleed purple, but you were forged in the fire of a Wildcat education. You learned and you grew and you changed.

I found strength in my opinions and the things I believe in. I realized the impact my words can have. I watched people around me doubt themselves and their ability to enact change, and I felt sorry because you are remarkable. You got this far by yourself, and you can do anything from here.

We don’t know what’s going to happen next, but the future is ours. We’re in this together, 2018. Let’s make something happen in this world.

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