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The Graduate

Bright Places Where Boom Bands are Playing

Kelly Conroy
MSM Class of 2012

(6/2012) "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." These lines are taken from Dr. Seuss’ book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go. This book is a popular graduation gift that features Dr. Seuss’ humorous verse. I received a copy for my high school graduation, but Dr. Seuss’ words definitely applied to my life again this year.

Cap—check. Gown—check. Tassel—check. Honors cords—check. Favorite miraculous medal—check. High heels (but not too high to cause a tumble across the stage) —check. On May 13th, 2012, I walked across the stage and graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University. As soon as my name was called, I didn’t hear the speaker or the crowds. It was all a blur and I barely remember thanking Dr. Powell or turning to take a photo. And then it was over. I had no more papers or exams. No more late nights of studying, meeting in the library for group projects, or going to a professor’s office hours.

And there was so much more to college than just classes. I competed on the Division I tennis team and pushed my body hard physically and mentally every day on the courts. I played in many exciting tennis matches with my doubles partner and took spring break trips with the team to Florida to play matches. I was involved with campus ministry and went to an athlete Bible study. I also lived with four girls who became my sisters. We learned how to cook five meals at the same time in a tiny kitchen and agree on the showering order for the day.

Graduations come with a flood of memories. I remember coming to the Mount from Florida my freshman year and experiencing one of the biggest snowstorms ever seen in Maryland. I thought it was a usual yearly occurrence. Students swarmed the quad and a huge snowball battle erupted. I learned what "table-topping" meant, that snow makes an interesting sound when you step on it, and that cotton gloves just don’t do the trick. My Dad had joked that during the winter, the school would string a rope from the cafeteria to the dorms so that students could easily find their way during a snowstorm. That year, I actually looked for that rope—only to realize that it didn’t exist!

Sophomore year I learned that striving to do well can be painful. I lived in the historic Terrace dorm building. My room had been newly renovated and had a great view of the main part of campus. It also was located just in front of the steps that lead up to the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes. A couple of my friends and I thought that running up the steps would be good conditioning. It was more than good conditioning . . . it was painful conditioning.

After my sophomore year, I skipped to my senior year. I had extra college credits from high school so I was able to graduate from college in three years. Switching from a sophomore to a senior was very strange. Suddenly I was receiving emails about job fairs and graduate school programs. My parents started asking me about what my next step would be after graduation. OH NO, I thought to myself, the REAL WORLD!

I am not the only one in my family having a graduation this year. My younger sister Mary Grace graduated from John Paul II Catholic High School in Tallahassee, FL. I was able to attend her graduation the weekend after mine and see familiar faces from my alma mater. My youngest sister, Teresa, also graduated from eighth grade. Her middle school years are over and she is more than ready to attend the high school where all three of her older sisters have gone.

"Your poor parents," people keep telling me. I smile and nod—three graduations is a lot of festivities for one year! "But that’s not all," I reply, "my older sister is also getting married in June."

We are all starting new chapters in our lives. Mary Grace will be attending the music school at Florida State University and moving into dorms for the first time. She is already searching the Internet for cute bedding and fancy door-hanging mirrors. Teresa will have to get used to high school lockers and playing high school sports. I hope that none of her teachers call her by one of her older sister’s names, but chances are that someone will because it’s a very small school. Erin will be moving to a new state with a wonderful husband. She will be a part of a new family and will even have a new job.

It didn’t seem as scary for me to graduate when I wasn’t the only one in my family experiencing change. My sisters are more excited about their next steps than they are sad about leaving their old ones. One of my Mom’s favorite Scripture passages helped me to accept graduation: "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)."

The Scripture passage helped, but now it’s time to reveal a truth. For me, the most exciting thing about being a graduate is . . . not really being a graduate. I will be coming back to the Mount next year as a Graduate Assistant in the Communications Office. I will be working towards my Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and I will also be able to play my fourth year on the tennis team.

I really couldn’t ask for a better situation. On graduation day, I was able to walk across the stage with a smile. I was proud of what I, and others, had accomplished during my undergraduate years. When other students started crying saying good-bye to some of their best friends, I was able to keep a smile (and only tear-up a little). I knew that I would be coming back to the Mount, so my last days as an undergraduate weren’t so sad.

Change will come even though I am coming back to the Mount. I will not be taking undergraduate classes. I will not be living in undergraduate housing with my old roommates. I will have to adjust to working and to taking night classes and doing even more of the work outside of class time. I don’t know all of the challenges that I will face or the joys that I will experience. I don’t know what people I will encounter and what friendships I will deepen or form for the first time. I have looked at the Mountain (literally and metaphorically) that I call my second-home from many different views, but I know I will get another perspective next year.

Sometimes my thoughts drift back to Commencement day. I’m surrounded by some of the most privileged people in the world—my classmates. We are a part of a very small percentage of the population that has earned college degrees and we are proud to raise our glasses and make a toast, "To the Mount!" Some of my peers have gone on to medical school and law school or become teachers and religious priests and sisters. Some of them are still in what Dr. Seuss would describe as "the waiting place," where people are "waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the train to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow."

Even after one stage of life is completed, the next right step is not always obvious. The "waiting place" is very difficult. My friends are waiting to hear back from employers about jobs and internships. They are waiting to see if their parents will help them with graduate school tuition. They are waiting for inspiration with ideas for their next steps. Some of my friends who have made decisions are waiting to see how those decisions play out in their lives.

I have hope for myself and my fellow graduates; so does Dr. Seuss: "Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing." I’m not sure what Boom Bands are. I think I’d like to find them though. Their name suggests that they are loud and exciting. Perhaps Boom Bands are confident in what they are playing, and I know I want to be confident in what I am doing.

But even more than being confident in what I am doing, I want to be confident about how I am doing it. The steps to the Grotto taught me that lesson best—sometimes it can be challenging to see results. I want to put all of my effort into my work so that I can take pride in giving my best. I hope that this Graduation enthusiasm remains with me all next year.

Read other articles by Kelly Conroy