Thursday, June 26, 2014


i think it's time i blogged about graduating from alma.

because like... that's a thing that i did. i graduated from college.

i spent a long time not wanting to graduate. to get myself in the mood for the fact that i would be leaving alma forever as a student, i hung up my graduation gown and hood on my wall in my apartment. 

it mostly just looked like a dementor at night.

the morning of graduation i was totally freaking out and totally excited and really upset that my room was empty.

the approximate stuff in my bedroom:

1 dress
1 pair of heels
1 jacket
1 pair of flats
1 cap and gown and hood set
1 naked drawing of my boyfriend


my apartment-mate kait was in a life drawing class. and my boyfriend happens to be a nude art model. and she made a very good picture of him. naked. and i was supposed to give it to him after graduation. there's a whole story about how she drew his testicles. if you wanna know, ask.

but you probably don't wanna know.

so anyway, i have this naked drawing of my boyfriend and i'm putting on my makeup and my mom is like WHAT IS THIS and i'm like, OH YEAH THAT'S A NAKED DRAWING OF ADAM and kait is like I DREW THAT MRS. HOLLENBERG

so that happened.

we started the morning off by going to the baccalaureate chapel service. some choir kids and i were singing two songs. there weren't that many of us and it was weird. and we never nailed the alto parts so i was unreasonably nervous. we all congregated in our caps and gowns in the basement of the chapel and president abernathy was there and it was the start of this question that frequented the entire day: is my hood on right?


bachelor of science people had a maroon and gold hood. bachelor of arts and fine arts had a maroon and white hood. so i'm standing next to barbara and she has her gold hood for being a science major and i have my white hood for being all humanities and everyone is in heels but i'm in my flats and i'm like, man i should've worn heels.

this is always a problem for me. i'm five foot nine so when i wear heels it's like, HELLO UP THERE! but when i don't and everyone else does i sometimes feel short depending how tall the people around me are.

whether i wear heels or i don't, i always end up disappointed.

the chapel service was sweet. we processed in in our caps and gowns to some cool organ music and we all sat in the front and there was a lot of talk about how god was going to enrich our lives as college graduates and stuff. i was mostly thinking about how my parents were sitting near my ex-boyfriend's parents and how that all was going.

the few of us choir people (and barbara) sang our songs. i could see the pain in my dad's face as we attempted to sing the harmony. we only had twenty minutes of practice beforehand, to be fair.

after the service we all went outside for pictures on the steps and it was like, WHERE AM I SUPPOSED TO LOOK?! and all these parents were like, AWWW MY BABY IS GRADUATING and i was like, I CAN'T EVEN FIND MY MOTHER and barbara was like, MY FACE IS GONNA EXPLODE and finally kylie shouted FIVE FOUR THREE TWO ONE ENOUGH PICTURES and we all broke up.

look at us. so hungry and ready for senior brunch.

senior brunch is always amazing. sodexo, alma's food service (which also services prisons and hospitals) actually serves good food at senior brunch. you get tickets for your family to get in and i scored an extra one for adam. he had to sing at commencement anyway and i told him he might as well eat with my family.

we get in line for the cafeteria. the line is curling around newberry and it's kinda cold and i'm glad that my dress is knit. adam hasn't showered because he didn't realise senior brunch was so soon, and once again, we're standing near my ex and his family and his new girlfriend.

his grandmother said hello to me and that was nice. she fed me a lot of good meals and she's a very wonderful woman.

at senior brunch i had about two omelettes and eighteen thousand crepes.


then it was time to get officially ready for commencement. my parents and my brother went to go sit in the auditorium, adam went to go join the choir to sing loch lomond with the choirs, and i went back to my apartment to put on my shoes.

it was kind of chilly, so i was wearing panty hose. i put on my six inch high heels and as soon as i walk, i slide straight out of them.

i ditch the panty hose. my apartment is entirely packed up, so what do i do?

throw them away in the bathroom.

i totter to the middle of campus, macintyre mall, where everyone is milling around, trying to find each other. girls are wobbling in heels, the guys are trying to look macho, nobody has any idea if they're wearing their hoods correctly.

i'm standing in all of these people and i'm looking around campus and it really hits me.

this is my last day in alma.

i find barbara and my apartment-mates and we start taking pictures. who knows if we'll see each other after the ceremony? everyone is taking pictures and freaking out and i can't believe i'm wearing these stupid effing six inch heels. my bunions are killing me.

then they start lining us up, two by two. i'm standing next to tieler holland, my friend hannah's girlfriend, and i tell her that she needs to save my seat because i have to go sing with the choir.

after we're lined up, the bagpipes start. it's not alma without bagpipes.

then we start walking.

i was so freaked out, walking into the crowded auditorium. but it was a good freaked out, a freaked out where i couldn't stop smiling. when tieler turned to go into our row, i kept walking back to where the choir was so i could sing loch lomond one last time.

it was surreal.

i stood with the other choir seniors while the band played pomp and circumstance. the president said some opening remarks. i stood there with my knees knocking together.

then doc (our choir director) stood up and began to conduct loch lomond.

singing loch lomond at homecoming and commencement is a choir tradition that only alma could have. it is a beautiful piece that is beautifully arranged.

i sang like i had never sung before. 

can you find me?

i didn't cry! i almost did, but i didn't cry singing loch lomond! it was a miracle!

then it was time to go to my official commencement seat and that meant... speeches. lots of speeches.

there was a speech from my friend michael, our barlow trophy winner. his speech was amazing.

then our special commencement speaker got up to talk and he said "um" five times in the first thirty seconds.

it was a long speech.

he went on and on and on about jobs and the market and how it wasn't actually as terrible as we think it is. (i'm working at kroger. hmph.) then he talked about soon machines were going to TAKE OVER THE WORLD

he could've gone all cool sci-fi with that.


like, it could've been that cool. but it was more like "um... we need machines. they're a part of how we do business. um. machines. um. they're smart. we need them. um."

once he was done, thank god, it was time to actually walk.

i had vivid memories of commencement rehearsal, where they called each of our individual names and made us sit in our chairs in alphabetical order. i had live tweeted the whole thing and got an all-high score in flappy bird.

i was also kind of sort of live tweeting commencement because my dress had pockets and the auditorium had alma wifi.

alma is a small school, so we get individually recognised. we walk across the stage with our names called, whatever honours we've received, and we shake the president's hand and get handed our diploma holder, actual degree to come later in the mail. we pause for a cheesey picture with the president, we walk away to a screen for an official alma photo, and then we go back to our seats. for people sitting way in the back, we show up on a huge overhead screen.

we get to my row. i'm freaking the eff out. 

now i'm in line behind tieler. still freaking out.

i'm moving forward. freaking out even more. i know that dr. arnold, who's reading all the names, isn't going to mess up because she was my academic advisor for four years. i'm not worried about that.

i'm worried about tripping out of these damn six inch heels. WHY DID I WEAR THEM?

it's tieler's turn. i step up to a piece of tape. she walks across the stage.

apparently, dr. arnold said, "emily ruth hollenberg, bachelor of arts, cum laude, honours in english" but i did not hear a single word she said as i crossed the stage. i had my eyes fixed on president abernathy. he was the goal. get to him without stepping out of my shoes.

i got to him. took my diploma holder from him. shook his hand.

he smiled at me and said, "congratulations, emily, i'm so proud of you. i should've gotten you a tie as a graduation present."

and that's when i knew that alma was the only place for me.

where else would the president of the college give me two ties during my four years and then tell me as i walked across the stage to give me my degree that he should've given me a third?

i tottered over to get my picture taken with my diploma and then i was sitting back in my seat, waiting for everyone else to walk. i couldn't really feel my feet, but that might've been the shoes.

when everyone had walked, instead of throwing our caps, we continued the alma tradition of bouncing a beach ball around while we all processed out to the gauntlet of faculty and bagpipes.

you know, i hate bagpipes. but when i'm at alma, i love them. i love them so so so so much.

when i left the auditorium, my first priority was to find my family, which took a long time. i spent a lot of time hugging faculty and nearly everyone i could reach. i hugged my hall director of three years, willard, so hard i thought i was going to break a rib. i found adam and we managed to find my parents while my heels sunk into mud. we took lots and lots of pictures and nothing felt real.

what felt real was the headache i had from smiling so much and obvious dehydration.

but there it was, my diploma holder.

i was a college graduate.

i went to a small grad party for barbara and then i had three hour drive with my brother back to indiana in my minivan full of four years of college stuff. about halfway home i started to feel really really awful and i made aaron take over the driving.

then around marshall, michigan, i made aaron pull over and i vomited all over the side of the road.

picture this. it's eight thirty at night, the sun is going down, i'm wearing a fifty dollar lavender dress, i'm barefoot, and i'm standing on the side of the highway puking my guts out.

that was how i ended my graduation day. puking on the side of the highway.

it would've been a lot worse if my brother hadn't sat in the driver's seat laughing his ass off at me. when i was done, i leaned against my van and laughed and laughed and laughed because i had done it, i had graduated from college.

i had done a year of collegiate swimming. i had been a resident assistant for three years. i had gone through two boyfriends, made numerous friends, been in a production of the vagina monologues, travelled on spring terms across oceans, sang in choirs, attended all kinds of events that you can only attend at a place like alma, been president of an organisation, had been in a sorority and then left it, had been a part of the religious life, had stayed up eating late night fries at joe's, had done all kinds of crazy things, and i had still managed to get my degree with honours.

i had done it.

alma was by far the best four years of my life. if i could do it over again, i would in a heartbeat.

alma is my home and it always will be.

loyal hearts will cherish ever.

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