Tuesday, August 30, 2011

i's da most edjumacated gradjiate

well, I think that pretty much sums it up!
onto the pictures...

i's just kidding.
did you really think I'm capable of being so concise in my explaining of life's events?
 especially with this one's reputation for being a legitimate "milestone" and all.

of course you didn't.
but if you want to know the truth,
I did think of glossing over the details of the whole graduation bit.

In the same way I felt apprehensive about April's graduation ceremonies because of my mind's insistence that any such celebration would be hugely anticlimactic for a December grad, spilling the details in an August post a full four months later seemed like an equally pointless expenditure of time.

But here's the deal.

Despite all my reservations about attending those April ceremonies
(and all my pleas and persuasions that my family forego the trip to Happy Valley, save their frequent flyer miles for some exotic vacation, and forget the whole thing)
I am, 
incredibly grateful I decided to go
(i.e. had no choice in the matter when my many, many, many appeals fell on deaf ears or were met with guilt trips reassurances that "It would mean so much to your dad," or "I'd just be so sad if you looked back with regret six months, years, or decades later and wondered why we let you miss it," or, my favorite, "Regardless of how silly the belated ceremonies, celebrations, and congratulations may seem, you'll always be grateful for the experience because of what those photos will mean to your kids.").
While my elementary school essays might lead readers to believe Miss Chelsey Brianne White was always BYU-bound, I've realized in recent months that this was not the case.

Before my brother's BYU graduation, these claims were simply platitudes
(I'm still trying to see the logic/value in asking a second grader to expound on what she wants to be when she grows up or where she wants to go to college.  I'm not sure I could even honestly commit to a favorite color at that age).
and weak attempts to put words on paper.
They needed me to pick a place, so I picked one 
and set it as my default answer for the next few years.
It sounded right,
it set me apart,
(remember I grew up in California & Nevada).
and it made sense.
And, at that time, that was all that mattered.
Fast-forward to Jason's graduation...

my first real visit to a big college campus
a fascination with this incredibly glamorous college life
thousands of caps and gowns with tassels
the echoes of applause across a packed Marriott Center
a crisp BYU diploma in the hands of the older brother I adored
a determination that, one day soon, I'd be a BYU alum too.
a true blue Cougar with a diploma to prove it!
That day came more quickly than I'd expected.

I absolutely would've believed you 
-had you told me all those years ago- 
if you said I'd be crossing that stage to claim a BA in Communications.

I similarly would've agreed
 -after a moment's pause- 
that future-me's degree designated a broadcast journalism emphasis.

That same reaction
-with the slightest hint of a smirk- 
might have come when you told me I'd finished it all in just 3.5 years
(as I justify future-me's semi-slacking with grand visions of an oh-so glamorous social life and an ambitious resume teeming with extracurricular activities...
can you tell past-me was a bit obnoxious in her over-achieving tendencies?
i like to think i've outgrown her).

I would've tried to fight you when you tried to tell me I was married,
-and invented every possible scenario to explain away the ring on my finger-
"my sweet fiance proposed on graduation day and we welcomed the start to our two-year engagement...I needed to free up my Friday nights and I'd exhausted my list of convincing excuses/creative ways to say no...I wanted to study for finals in peace!"
before finally conceding that it maybe possibly perhaps perchance might be true.

But I never, ever, ever would have believed you if you'd said I wanted to skip my own graduation.
-I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken.  Even future-me would know better than to do such a thing.  I've looked forward to this day my whole life.-

But the truth of it is, I didn't want to go.
And the reality of it is,
many of my concerns did prove valid.
For those first 30-minutes in the HFAC basement, I felt absolutely out-of-place.
My decision to graduate in December meant I'd missed out on a kick-back semester of anchor labs, floral design, event planning, tennis, golf and all the latest happenings in the newsroom.
Tack on our move removing ourselves from the Provo newlywed community's social scene by moving to Salt Lake and you'll see.
I was, by all accounts, a stranger to this once familiar college town.
Amazing what four short months can do...
Just as I prepared to resign myself to committing to the conclusion that I'd made a colossal mistake in coming, I bumped into a friend.
 a real friend.
and a friend who paved the way for the many sweet, tender mercies that made a graduation day I felt ready to write off.

I've always admired her.
She's beautiful, smart, talented, and driven.
But above all, she's realauthenticoptimisticand genuine.
And that, today, was exactly the kind of friend I needed.

She took a genuine interest in my life, post-grad plans, and ideas for the future, excitedly sharing the details of her own.
She sympathized with my feelings of uncertainty over what the future held and validated my trepidation in moving forward, for the first time in my life, without a clear picture of what I wanted to accomplish or do.
And she maintained my same optimism that, 
whatever it was, 
we'd find it soon
and find success there too.

We reminisced about our program, professors, projects, and friends;
we speculated about what the future held;
and we walked across that stage knowing, 
in spite of our seemingly taboo TBD post-grad plans, 
we'd already found success.
Thanks to a sweet friend, I finally saw my graduation as an accomplishment worth celebrating.
When I finally decide to grow up, I hope I'll be just like her.

Case in point:
Chelsey's blonde moment of the day.
"Why is my name on this list?"
I whisper as an especially expressive family wolf-whistles in response to the announcer calling their graduate across the stage. 
"What list?"
I point to pages spattered with Latin and look up at her an expression of confusion and concern.
She smiles and suppresses a laugh.
"Chelsey! You're our summa cum laude! That means you're like the tip-tip-top of the class. Like a valedictorian. Oh my gosh...that's so exciting! Congrats!"
She turns to share the news with our broadcast buddy neighbors.
I flush a few shades of red.
"I think I need to give it back."
She gives me a curious look.
"Why's that?"
"Because a real summa cum laude...am I even pronouncing it right?"
She kindly corrects me.
"Right. A real summa cum laude would be smart enough to get it, smart enough to say it, AND smart enough to know what it means. I'm 1 for 3. This is not the kind of representation our college needs."
"Don't worry Chels," she laughs again, "I promise I won't tell."
I stare down at the program and wallow in my shame once more before it hits me. Oh my gosh. Oh no.
My panic makes my whisper a bit more audible than I intended,
"Please tell me this doesn't mean I have to speak! I would die...right there on the podium.  My family would be devastated. And my dad...oh my poor dad."
More kind laughter.
"I think you're okay Chels..."
"You're sure?"
"I'm certain."
"Okay...but if it happens I'm sending you in my place. So long as it's a blonde in broadcast no one will know the difference."
"Probably true..."
As much as that small discovery made me blush, I count it as graduation day's tender mercy #2.
I'll spare you a rehash of the reasons why
-we aired the details of my internal conflict over my college approach this last December-
and simply say that while honors should never be the sole indicator of the worth/value of an education, crazy me needed it that day.

I finally took a bit of pride in my efforts. 
finally appreciated the fact that, regardless of my future field, my time in broadcast did help me acquire the skills and confidence I'd need to succeed.
finally acknowledged how missing out on enrolling in Comms 101 that first fall turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in my life
-i can't imagine where I'd be had I moved forward with my plans for PR or entered the program a semester ahead of the broadcast family of friends I've come to know and love so well-
 finally recognized the lasting impact of those incredible friendships I made along the way and how impossible it would be to adequately express my appreciation for all the efforts our professors made on our behalf.
finally opened my heart to admitting how much I would miss this place.
-why are we always in such a hurry to see what comes next?
if you haven't realized it already, 
let me speak from experience,
the grass-is-greener mentality is so overrated.-

my days at BYU will always frame the backdrop of some of my sweetest memories.
From freshman adventures with fast friends,
to sophomore year craziness with my very best besties,
to a junior year spent finding and falling in love,
to the senior year given to finding myself,
I will never experience anything quite like it.

As I wandered the HFAC lobby, maneuvering my way through the crowds of happy families reuniting with their graduates, I suddenly felt sad.
I hadn't even left and I already missed it.
What am I doing?
What is there to celebrate?
I know I'm never coming back, 
but I don't know where I'm going.
The future seemed more uncertain than ever.
And again, I questioned my approach.
If I'd really made the most of my time here, wouldn't I know the answer?
A voice from the balcony helped me surface from my thoughts.
"Chelly! Chels we're up here!"
I turned my eyes upward to see my dad, wildly waving a bouquet of roses through the air and grinning from ear to ear. 
-Every awards night, performance, championship, graduation, and birthday my daddy buys me flowers. It's his way of showing how much he loves me and a sweet reminder that, to him, even the smallest of my successes is a cause for celebration.-
And it hit me.
Mom was right.
Today meant so much to him;
he was so proud of me.
They all were.
cue tender mercy #3

As I hugged my way up the stairs I felt so incredibly loved.
Here was the dad who found his greatest pride in his children's success and did everything he could to help us achieve it.
Dad worked himself ragged to give us every opportunity, experience, and chance for success. That selflessness and the joy he finds in helping others on to happiness are, without a doubt, the reasons he's dedicated his whole life to seeing us succeed. He had my synapses firing from the time I was four. From rummy and cribbage to Risk and chess, Dad loved helping us develop critical thinking skills through games.  To Mom's chagrin, "stump the dummy," Dad's aptly titled mental math game, will be a tradition I carry on to my future family's road trips too. Those little strings of equations and the smiles that crossed his face when I'd solved them will always be some of my fondest memories of my Dad.  There's never been a question in my mind about how much he loves me.  He'll always be proud of his little girl.
Here was the mom who always made it happen and taught me to take pride in giving 120% 100-percent of the time.
From countless hours spent crafting Chautauqua costumes and display boards to an expensive last-minute order for my science project's bioluminescent pet (I killed the first batch) to sleepless nights spent sitting by my side for moral support as I worked my way through an essay (which, in retrospect, was pointless as I'd refuse any help), Mom always made it happen for me.  She put up with my outbursts over unrealistic deadlines/unreasonable expectations then talked me through the breakdowns where I'd finally acquiesce I may have taken on too much.  She took care of me each time my health deteriorated in the wake of an "I can accomplish anything and everything and not sleep!" manic spree. And, most importantly, she somehow loved me through it all.  I've never met anyone as selfless or as capable as my mom and I'm convinced I never will.
Here was the brother who pushed me to push myself and make the move from good to great.
I looked up to him my whole life.  I admired his wit, intellect, and confidence.  I talked him up to every friend and family friend we knew--and still do. I craved his praises and longed for his approval.  And though it took me years to realize it, I had it all along.  We fought like crazy and, at times, I drove him up the wall.  But I always knew he loved me and wanted to see me succeed.  He set the bar high and expected me to clear it. And the criticisms only came on those occasions when both he and I knew I wasn't being honest with myself or living up to my full potential. His big-brother mentality's made him my greatest advocate and I'm so grateful for the ways he's helped me realize what I can achieve and what I deserve.  I'll never know why his opinion means so much to me, but I absolutely appreciate how willing he is to give it.  His honesty drives me to succeed.
Here was the little sister who endured all the craziness without complaint and gave me a reason to want to do it all.
Have you ever had someone look up to you?  Someone you knew your decisions and actions could directly impact?  In the same way I wanted my older brother's approval, I needed my little sister's too.  I wanted to know I'd become someone she could be proud of.  I needed to feel that I'd given her every reason to want to and try to succeed.  She endured more hours on the sidelines and in the audience than I care to count, but seeing the success she's achieved and the name she's made for herself independent of my own triumphs gives me hope that it might not have been a complete waste of her childhood and time :)  She's amazing and I am so incredibly proud of her for all she's accomplished to date.  Can't wait til she's the Cougar we're celebrating at the Y.
Here were the newest additions to our family who lovingly reassured me on so many occasions that graduating was, indeed, an accomplishment and just the first of many successes to come.  
I know you're all just about sick of hearing that phrase, but--for some reason--crazy me had to hear it that many time to finally accept it as truth.  Your patience in offering up those little reminders meant more to me than you know. I love you all so much and I love that you're my family!
i.e. Ashlee hugs me and exclaims,
"My little sister is so smart!!!
I just love you!"
I just love you too Ash.
Here was the bestie who helped me remember everything I'd done to get here and how much fun we had along the way.
If you weren't on a mission, I'd ramble on and on about our adventures, but I think it will suffice to say we've had more fun than most people will find in a lifetime.  I have to be one of the luckiest Cougars to have her "girls" there with her from Beehives to BA's.  I love you lots Miss Tiff!
And here was the husband who loved me through it all.
Who always made it a point to tell me how proud he was to call me his.
Who went to bed alone those nights I let perfectionism take the front seat.
Who chatted with me late into the night as I commuted home from school.
Who held me til I fell asleep on those school nights when my restless mind had me feeling like I never would.
Who wiped away my tears each night I wondered where to go from here.
Who absolutely believed I could do anything I set my mind to and couldn't wait to see me try.
He's been my greatest motivator,
my strongest support,
and my best friend.
I'm so lucky to have him.

Parker's fingers laced through mine as we made our way outside when, 
suddenly, it hit me.
Closing this chapter in my life scared me because it marked the end of what once seemed like a certain future.
I knew where I wanted to go, what I wanted to achieve, and what I needed to do to get there.
But the truth of it is, 
while my plans for my professional pursuits might need a few revisions, 
my future has never been more certain 
or more reassuring in its promise. 
I'm living for the people I love now.
I'm taking that leap of faith in trusting that, whatever our future has in store, we'll be happy because it's ours!
It's ours to live together.
And I can't think of a happier promise for the future than knowing I'll be sharing it with Parker.

Love's worth every single revision I'll ever make to that draft of my life plan.
Check in in about 50 years and I'll read you the final...

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate or sent warm wishes my way that day! 
It's likely Biaggi's & bapples with family and friends meant more to me than the ceremonial hubbub.
But we all know that, when it comes to bapples, there's not much that can compete for my affections.
It wasn't ever a fair contest.
Thanks for a good run BYU.
I'll always have my memories.

(cougar growl)

p.s. guess which graduate has an iPad 2???  
I'm feeling a little guilty I mocked them for so long.
And, if we're being honest, I will admit it took me about three weeks to free it from its box.
The technology intimidated me,
but we seem to be getting along just fine.  
Here's to a MAC-friendly future in marketing!
woo woo woo!
oh and dental school too...
details to come.


  1. Chels...you are such an amazing writer... : ) This made me cry : ) I love you!!! And I hope you are well! Ashlee gives me updates! We started a dessert club here in California, I'm gonna need you to come join us for some butter cake this week ; )

  2. I'm so glad you finally posted your graduation photos. Isn't it amazing how time flies? Life seems to be in fast forward and before you know it you'll be snapping pictures of YOUR kids graduation! Enjoy the journey...
    I'm so proud of you, Chels! Love you...

  3. ahh! I'm so happy for you! and also. you're now graduated. give porter a friend? (jk parker) and we MUST hang out soon. seriously.