So at around 3:00 on Sunday, I officially became a college graduate. It’s an amazing feeling to think that after 16 years in academia I’ve finally fulfilled one of my foremost goals. When I was a little kid, there with my Kindergarten diploma, I don’t think I could have guessed that I’d end up walking down the aisle in the Kohl Center at the UW Madison 16 years later (with a mortarboard that wasn’t made out of construction paper). At that point, getting through first grade must have seemed practically insurmountable!

My high school graduation – things were so different back then. I was going to be a theatre major and be a professional actor; getting out of Brodhead was the only thing I could think about. I get a kick out of the fact that there are only about a dozen pictures from my high school graduation compared with over two hundred from the college graduation – this was the best one I could find, and you might notice there’s something a little odd about how I’m holding my diploma cover…heh, distracted much, I wonder?

Nostalgia hits everyone hard, I think – I sat with my friend Jessie, who I’ve known since eighth grade back at home, and we were talking about all the things we’ve seen and been through, even in just the past four years. My first night at UW-Madison, she lived in Sellery while I lived in Ogg, and I went over and visited her and some other friends of ours and watched a movie. As I was leaving, I remember being struck with the weird sensation of leaving someone else’s “house” at three in the morning and not having to call my parents and tell them where I was. My friends told me similar feelings; whether they engaged in tentative testing of what their new-found freedom allowed, or just went all out and ended up in detox in their first weekend (Ogg Hall always DID have a funny smell). I remember my first lecture in Ag Hall for Poli Sci 104 – that class had 600 students in it, which was 200 students more than the entire student body of Brodhead High School. I usually sat in the ground floor section, but one time when I was late and had to go to the balconey, I looked around at the hundreds of people in this one huge lecture hall and felt very, very small. The change from high school textbooks was surprising, too. The first time I used a college textbook, it was a little jarring to notice that they were written as if the author actually expected the reader to be performing this research/experiment! It’s strange what you remember, years later, but it was another moment in which adulthood loomed frighteningly in front of me.

It’s going to be sad (and a little annoying) to give up all the included benefits that being a UW student gave me, like free wireless highspeed internet anywhere on campus, access to all their libraries, healthcare plans, discounts on expensive computer software, heck even my venerable old address (although at least I can keep my address all summer) will all be vanishing, either already the moment the empty diploma case touched my hand, or sometime in the coming weeks. Most frighteningly, I’m going to have to start paying for my own insurance soon! At least in a few months when I turn 22, car insurance rates will go down. Being in the real world sounds terrible!

At least I have this summer to relax and work before heading off to who-knows-where. One more summer in beautiful Madison…I’m going to miss it, and all of my close friends, very much. When we all stood up at the end of the graduation ceremony, linked arms and sang “Varsity” one last time as students, swaying back and forth, a sea of black robes joined for one final time as a whole unit – the class of 2008.