College graduation season is here. I remember being so excited and so nervous at the same time… trying to celebrate with my college friends, wrap any loose ends up, hunt for a job, etc. Everyone always says to bask in the moment. “It’s a great milestone in life,” they say.
But my college graduation was a little different.
I think this is the story that made me want to start writing again, because life hasn’t been the same since. As I see the pictures of caps and gowns popping up on my feed, I can’t help but go back in time to that day/time in life. How I was feeling… what I was thinking…
I’m pretty sure it was three weeks before graduation. I was in Target, doing my usual shopping and killing time (because Target is the best place to do that!), when I got the call from my mom. My mom was very upset and, as a daughter, I thought the worst: My mom is sick. Maybe she was in an accident. Someone did something to her.
“X and I decided to get a divorce.” (For his sake, we will call him X.)
“Okay… umm.. okay. Well it’s been me and you before, we can get through this… just us two,” I said.
We hung up.
My parents were together through my formative years. He was there when I went to high school, my proms, high school graduation, college decision-making, and all of college. He was there when I got my first car and my first real break-up. He filled the space my real father didn’t want.
This changed everything about my college graduation. Usually, it isn’t just a celebration of the graduate, but also the parents. It’s an accomplishment that should be spent purely in joy with both parents and both families.
I spent my final weeks stressed – not because of finals or my final portfolio review, but for my broken family. I spent days on a roller coaster ride of anger toward my mom and my stepfather, sadness for myself and trying to calm my mother down. Meanwhile, I was balancing this with some of the “happiest” times of my life: Spending time with sorority sisters I’d never see again, soaking in my last days of work, making sure all of my ducks were in a row so I would actually graduate, and (let’s be honest) partying it up.
It was rotten timing and a huge blow to my big event.
Graduation party plans had to change, I couldn’t have it at the house X built for my mom. We trimmed down the invitation list, because we all wanted to just be together without the awkward conversations from the outside. I had an internal battle with having X there or not. I was at the center of the rope in a tug-o-war battle between my parents.
I, at one point, asked my roommates, “is it okay- as an adult- to mourn the dissolution of my parent’s marriage?”
Their answer was yes. I lost someone who was crucial to my upbringing.
Years later, I’ve learned they were right. My mom and I went through our own mourning periods, sometimes at different paces, but nonetheless… together. It took a couple of years to put our lives together piece-by-piece and get the closure we needed to continue on. We moved out of our beloved house, took many trips together, cried together, changed our phone numbers and moved on. We learned that it wasn’t us. It wasn’t our fault and this isn’t our fate.
Today, I can’t help but look back and be thankful for the experience. I’ve grown to learn my strength and rely on my faith. I’ve also learned more about my mom and her strength as a woman. I’m thankful for being able to witness her pick herself back up and start her life again. Plus, I’m thankful for the degree I received, even if graduation didn’t go as smoothly as planned.