I graduated from college about two weeks ago.
It went by fast, that whole part of my life. I spent 17 years in school, 18 if you consider that pre-pre-K thing my mom sent me to.
In that time, I realized that life is made up of four distinct groups of people: Your heroes, your teachers, your peers, and your students. Your heroes are people you may never meet, but who affect your life through their lives. Your teachers are people you know, who guide you on your path and help you to find yourself. Your peers are those people on the same path as you, or similar ones at the same time. And your students are those that you pass your knowledge on to, that you become a teacher for.
We are all all of these roles. We are each someone’s hero, someone’s teacher, someone’s peer, and someone’s student, even if we don’t know it. Through those roles, we pour into one another, giving a little bit of ourselves and taking a little bit of everyone else in order to become who we all are. And in recognition of those roles and the beautiful life inherent within them, here are 18 thank yous to my heroes, my teachers, my peers, and my students, many of which are quite frankly beyond overdue.
My mom, for the way she dances when she’s excited, for teaching me that the American dream is still available to those who work for it, and for starting my love affair with travel and being anywhere but here. My dad, for showing me that the strongest person in the room isn’t always the loudest, for always being supportive of my goals, and for reminding me that to achieve them, I am going to have to work for them. My grandma, for giving me the best advice in the sweetest of fashions, for teaching me how to cook, and for instilling in me the belief that good Southern proper manners are still fashionable. My cousin Jackie, for helping me learn to follow my instincts and to be who I am, regardless of what society dictates for me.
Sydney, for showing me that true friendship spans all times and all places, and that you don’t have to see each other every day or even every year to be incredibly close. Cyndi, for agreeing that the two of us could say anything we ever needed to the other, no holds barred. Katie, for showing me that sisters aren’t always biological, and Katie’s family for adopting me in as their fourth child and being almost as involved in my life as my biological family is. Mike, who for the past year has shown me what real love looks like, has been an unending source of support and hugs, and has often believed in me more than I believed in myself.
Mrs. Pearson, who in 7th grade English class showed me that writing was the thing I was really passionate about, and Dr. Greenwald, who just a year ago sat me down to tell me to stop being afraid of my own talent, and to chase after my dreams, because no one was going to. J.K. Rowling, who created a world I was utterly enthralled by, and gave me something to hold in my hands and say, “this, this is what I want to do.” Jared Tseng, who sat down with me and taught me how to become a professional photographer, how to follow my art, and is still one of the wedding photographers I’m the most inspired by.
Dr. Smith, for exceeding my expectations of how much therapy can help and for giving me the tools to take care of myself, to save myself, and to love myself. Every man I ever dated, the douches and the nice guys, who let me fall in love with them, let me fall out of love with them, and helped me figure out not only what I want, but what I deserve in the man I’ll someday marry. The little kids I taught to swim, because they showed me that compassion, patience, and a little silliness can sometimes be more important than outright hard work. All you blog readers, for showing me that community is not limited by geography and that unwavering support can come from people whose faces you’ve never seen. Finally, all the bloggers who have confronted their quarter-life crises, and through those confrontations have shown me that there is a way to become the best version of yourself and it’s not always the way society says it should be done.
So thank you guys. Thank you for helping me on the path to the Grown Ass Woman I’ve (almost) become, and thank you for doing it in your own beautiful ways that reflect the heroes, the teachers, the peers, and the students that have poured into you and made you all into the fantastic beings you’ve become and will continue to evolve into.
All of the hugs and all of the love,