Dear Eastern Kentucky University,
I never thought I would say this, but I think I’m actually going to miss you. I remember my first night here. My parents took me to Wendy’s for one last family meal. I ordered a large strawberry lemonade and insisted on drinking all of it before we left, trying to postpone the inevitable. I teased my mom for crying when we said goodbye, hoping she wouldn’t see the tears sneaking out of the corner of my own eye. I cried even more that night. The 6 feet between my roommate’s bed and mine seemed like an ocean, and I was on a deserted island, alone for the very first time.
I cried again this week, for a very different reason. As I sat in my last class of my undergraduate career, and listened to my professor wish us good luck in our future endeavors, I shed a tear … and then another, and another. I was surprised, and then confused. I wasn’t supposed to be sad about graduating. The first day of the semester, I downloaded a countdown app on my phone, counting down the days, hours, and seconds until I graduate. This is what I’ve been waiting 22 years for. I should be ecstatic.
In a lot of ways, I am. I’m excited to walk across the stage, to throw my cap in the air, knowing that I’ve accomplished the most challenging thing in my life. I’m eager to have a break from stress and deadlines, only to do all over again next year when I start law school. But, as most goodbyes are, it’s still bittersweet. Sure, college was a lot of stress and very little sleep, but for me, it was life-changing. At the beginning of the semester, one of my professors was trying to get a feel for our class participation level, and asked how many of us felt comfortable talking in class. My hand shot up. Wait, what? Me? Comfortable talking in class? My freshman year, I had written up a schedule, calculating exactly how often I had to speak in order to get a passing grade in participation, and now I’m easily one of the most talkative students. That’s when I realized something had happened over the last four years: I had grown – as a leader, as a student, and as a person.
But I didn’t do it on my own. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think the same can be said for a college student. So, to my “village,” I would like to say thank you.
To the Noel Studio … You gave me my first job, one that I will never be able to forget. You taught me the power of creativity and the importance of communication. To all the students I consulted with during my time there, thank you for sharing your voices, your struggles, and a little part of your lives with me. I hope you all are doing well.
To EKU Communications and Brand Management … This last year of my life has been one of the best, thanks to you. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but usually leaned more to the creative. I wasn’t sure how well I would do in a more technical job like this, but I’m immensely glad I gave it a chance. Not only have I grown tremendously as a writer, but I have had the opportunity to interview and write about some truly amazing people. I have talked to students who have lost everything – from their homes, to their ability to walk – and I continue to be impressed by their incredible positivity and perseverance.
To my classmates … If your last few years have been anything like mine, you deserve the utmost applause. Many of you have cried with me, laughed with me, and studied until 2 a.m. with me and for that, I thank you. I’m sure people have told you that college is nothing compared to the real world, but I want you to know that I understand this world is very real. Some of you are single parents. Some of you are in the military, or working two jobs, and others struggle with physical and mental health problems. I see all of you, and you are doing great.
To my professors ... I can honestly say I would be not the person I am today without each and every one of you. You not only helped me find my voice, you taught me that it was worth sharing with others. On the very first day of my educational foundations class with Clara Parrish, I remember sharing that I often felt underestimated when people learned I was from Eastern Kentucky. Sixteen weeks later, as we walked out of that classroom for the last time, Professor Parrish stopped me. She gave me a hug, and told me, “Don’t you ever doubt yourself because of where you’re from. I know you, and I know what you’re capable of.”
To Dr. Lisa Day and Dr. Brent Shannon, thank you for shaping me into the feminist I am. I’m attending law school next year to become a discrimination lawyer, something I would have never considered had it not been for my women and gender studies classes. I always dreamed of changing the world. You taught me that doesn’t have to just be a dream.
To Eastern Kentucky University … Thank you for teaching me anything is possible, for inspiring me to “make no little plans” and, most importantly, for being the school that made me who I am today.
An Eternal Colonel
(The author, Yasmin White, pictured in inset, will graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English literature on Dec. 15. The Paintsville native has served as a student writer with EKU Communications and Brand Management since January.)