Saturday, May 14, 2011

And the Undergraduate Degree is Done!

Well, technically it's been done since Wednesday; but now I'm completely done with all things school until August! So all I have left to do at SLU is pack up my things and walk across that stage.

It's weird how time works like that. I remember coming up here for a visit and thinking "Maybe if I'm good enough, I can come here." I remember my dad and I driving home from that visit (I was driving) and my dad turned to me and said, "Well?" I was in a daze thinking about SLU and how cool it would be to come here, so I believe my response was something along the lines of "Huh?" "Well, do you think this might be a good school?" he asked. I think I paused, then glanced quickly at him, smiled, and said "yea... yea, definitely."

I also remember getting the acceptance letter, receiving SLU-related gifts from many relatives at Christmas, and moving in on that first day in August. I remember thinking many times over the past four years that senior year couldn't come quickly enough, and I also remember wishing that time would slow down, just for a moment.

And now, four years later, I can honestly say that I don't regret anything here at SLU. Sure, there were good times and bad; there were days I wanted to leave this school in the middle of nowhere and go somewhere that had a few more people. But after four years, I don't regret any of it, the good or the bad.

Just as a few examples, over the past four years, I have:
- played hide-and-seek with a two-year-old Indonesian girl using an old piece of velcro from my backpack
- traipsed around in a snowstorm while drawing pictures with an umbrella in freshly fallen hail
- Been to Narnia every time it snows
- found the best place on earth for french onion soup and a grilled cheese sandwich
- written a dictionary of a dying language in the Pacific Islands
- butchered a lamb (already dead) with my own hand-made obsidian tools
- lived off the grid
- eaten haggis
- seen deer eating grass on the golf course just as the sun rose
- sat on the quad and gazed at the stars
- written the best thesis my department has ever seen
- built a chicken coop in the middle of a downpour
- sent chocolate to my professor through an origami owl named Hedwig that I taped to her door in 2009

I have also:
- crashed my bicycle into a telephone pole
- failed an exam for which I spent hours studying
- been stuck on the side of the road, waiting for assistance more times than I would like to count
- been stopped by border patrol and questioned as to why I had so much stuff in my car (the semester was over... it wasn't illegal!)
- baked some very, very poor bread
- spent hours working on a map, a dataset, or an essay only to have the whole thing disappear in all five locations to which it was saved.
- killed several computers completely unintentionally (I still don't know why they bit the dust)

And I don't regret any of it. You know, a lot of my life I have concentrated on the things that didn't work out so well, the things I wish I could change about life or the things I wish hadn't happened at all. But, looking at these four years, I'm glad that I failed that exam, and I'm glad I failed in my baking of bread. I'm glad that my data disappeared (though I would appreciate it if it kept that to a minimum), because throughout it all, I've learned something. I've learned why I failed that exam and went on to be one of the best in that class. My professor doesn't even remember me failing that exam and still looks at me in disbelief when I tell him. I have learned why my bread failed, though I still haven't made perfect bread. But I will. And that's the beauty of it. I wouldn't have written a darn good thesis if I hadn't had my datasets crash on me once in a while. that was part of the experience, and made me realize exactly how much I cared about my research. It's like crashing your bike. You look like an idiot, and you feel like an idiot, but you have two choices: you can sit there and feel like an idiot or you can laugh at yourself, examine the grass stains on your jeans, fix the chain on the bike and continue riding. And while you may have liked to get to your destination without skinning your knee, you realize that it made the journey more interesting.

Let's face it, if life were only full of good things, then how would we learn? Isn't that the whole point of education? It's one big game of trial and error until you get it right, but often you get it right because of something you learned not to do, something that didn't work.

So in the end, it has been a very interesting four years. There have been ups and downs, and many times it's felt like more downs than ups. But none of it was a mistake, and all of it is worth remembering.