Today I graduated. Those words are still incomprehensible to me. Four years of toil and growth came to an end with one seemingly short two hour ceremony. The tassle moved from one side of my cap to the other and with it my world shifted. As my roommate so aptly put it, I went from being a college student to a “young single.” And as my family slowly trickled back to their respective corners of the world, I was left to do what I do best: contemplate.
I found my self simultaneously experiencing an intense sorrow and intense joy; sorrow as I said goodbye to friendships and a way of life that has grown to be incredibly fulfilling, and joy as I looked back on what I had accomplished in four years. How do you sum up four years at Wheaton? How do you wrap them up and put them away in favor of the next step? How do you move on from an experience that has defined your young adulthood and shaped the very essence of the man you’ve become? In some ways you can’t. If we ever truly invest ourselves in something or someone, we can’t just pull away without some form of severence. Life requires that we make relationships knowing that they may end, that we learn from professors we will eventually have to say goodbye to, that we surrender ourselves to ideals knowing our convictions may change, that we live boldly yet always with a realization that life is transient. Because of this, goodbyes are always painful and change carries with it an element of fear.
Today’s ceremony was done perfectly, and I felt myself falling in love with Wheaton again, one more time. My friends and classmates streamed before me to receive their diploma covers and there was a sense of celebration in the air as they basked in the limelight. My friend, Anne Snyder, gave an incredibly moving address that really summed up my Wheaton experiences well. Before I knew it, they called my name and I walked across the stage in a surreal stupor of raw emotion and intense focus. President Litfin smiled at me with a paternal glow in his eyes and whispered congratulations. It was all I could do to murmur a weak “thanks” as the constant flow of graduates carried me back to my seat. And with that, I was a graduate…an alumnus.
Why, I wonder, are life’s big bends always so abrupt? Perhaps it is a grace that like a child who does not have time to feel the pain of a shot before it is over, the goodbye for me was quick and tearless. Perhaps it is my heavenly father’s love for me or an obedience to the aphorism my grandmother included in the card she gave me for graduation: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Yes, Wheaton was a blessing more rich and deep than I can express, and it will always carry a dear place in my heart. May God bless the institution forever, and I hope that I will be able to go on from here to bigger and better things in the power that Christ provides.