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Blood, Sweat and Tears

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At the end of every year, every semester, every week sometimes, I ask “How did we get here?” I never expect an answer. I don’t reach for the map on the car-floor when our road trip takes us a wrong turn and leads us into unfamiliar territory. I hate admitting when I’m lost. But, to all my fellow graduating seniors, I’ve got to ask, for the final time, “how did we get here?” and this time I want an answer.

When we took our first steps on the green, did we picture ourselves stepping on the stage? When we finally retired our orientation lanyard, did we know we’d be trading it for green robes? How did we know? How did we do it? The cliche response—”with blood, sweat and tears”—doesn’t seem to cut it, now does it? But we should start with that.

Blood.

We say all the time—so much it can be trite—but we’re family because of this place. This doesn’t exactly describe peaceful coexistence or communal harmony. Family can be ugly sometimes. Family isn’t all roses; in fact, it’s usually never roses. We’ve seen it at our own family dinners. Families fight. They’re messy. We all bring our baggage to the table and hurl it across at each other like food fight mashed potatoes. We can say cruel things sometimes, both things we mean and don’t mean. But that doesn’t mean we love each other less.

I’ve sent some (not-so)passive-(mostly)aggressive emails to people that I admire most, and I have been told off by former friends who still write me the best birthday cards. We’re not afraid to call each other out—unabashedly—because, well, we can. No one else has that right though. Just us and the friends that transferred. The point is, this university has bound us together like blood relatives, and, whether you like it or not, somebody is bringing that old potato salad at the next family reunion.

We’ve lost some beautiful family members during our years here and, as we set a plate for each empty seat, it takes the strength of this collective to rise from that pain. The piece of wisdom that I learned from all of you is, you don’t choose your family or your roommates for that matter; it’s destiny. And at the sunset of each day, we’ll meet back at the dinner table and break bread together, even if it is just passing salt.

Sweat.

I admit it. Though I try my best to feign academic confidence, there have been times where I wasn’t so sure if I would graduate from Stetson if at all. Too many times, actually. Every Sunday was an internal crisis and every Monday was an external one. There were nights where I got off work at the coffee-shop at two in the morning to whip out an essay I should have started a week ago—in one night, just to squeeze in a 10-minute cat-nap before my 8:30am class—and then start the hustle all over again. Needless to say, I burned up and out real fast and my GPA took a hit its still recovering from.

We joke about the grind, but it’s serious sweat. Pulling all-nighters just to wake up and rehearse for recital. Planning to go out downtown with friends only to be scheduled to work downtown at your job. Saving up coins for that concert just to cancel because there’s a Chem 2 test you’ve got to study for. And we’ve slipped up sometimes. Sleeping through half a final exam. Missing your senior defense. Sacrificing a SPI session to get ready for your roommate’s 21st birthday.

I wanted to get everything possible out of my college experience—the work, the wisdom, the leadership, the friendships, the romance, the success and the degree—but often we end up sacrificing one thing for the other, and it took me until now basically to realize that that’s ok. We’ve got to stop shaming each other and ourselves for not being able to do everything. Let no one, even yourself, tell you that you didn’t do enough here. That you didn’t work enough. You and I both know we did nothing but sweat under this Florida sun and we all deserve to be here right now because of it, degree-soon-to-be-in-hand.

Tears.

Have you ever walked out of the library in the middle of the night and the ground is drenched? You may have thought it was the sprinklers or maybe that Florida springtime rain, but I’m admitting right now, it just was me—crying over something or somebody or a midterm grade—and filling the fountain with saltwater. It’s healing right? and, might I add, environmentally sustainable.

When we look back at our timehop photos on Facebook, we’ll see old pictures of us smiling. Smiling on move-in day. Smiling at the induction ceremonies. Smiling at fraternity formals with… well that’s not important. The point is, there aren’t many photos of the tears you shed after from being homesick freshman year. Or the breakdown you had during an exam. Or the ugly crying you did after an off-night downtown during Mercury retrograde.

When the tears come, they come pouring out of you. I’ve poured one out for friendships I let die. I’ve poured one out for the professors I’ve disappointed. I’ve poured one out for the brief romances that ended in long term ugliness. And there’s no doubt I’ll pour one out for Stetson. Joy and sadness mixing and running my eyeliner. And as we smile for our professional graduation photos, we know that the tears can’t be edited it out of our Stetson memories; it’s integral to the experience. It might be what keeps the grass green.

End.

I’ve always been in love with cliches. They’re these transportable pieces of wisdom. In my four years here, I’ve picked them up, like little flowers in the grass—and carry them with me—like the ten pounds I gained freshman year. But there’s one cliche that I don’t know about. You know that one about the journey being more important than the destination? I’m not sure if that’s completely true.

When the dust settles and the tassels have turned, someone back home will inevitably ask you, “how did you do it? how did you get there?” I swear you’ll just smile mysteriously in response, because the most important thing is that you did get there—here, right now—and blood, sweat and tears don’t even begin to retrace your steps.

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Blood, Sweat and Tears