;

“Last but not least, I would say you should have big dreams, full dreams, not half dreams. You know, it’s very simple. You can’t put a large box in a small box. Well, you cannot put a full life in a small dream box.”

—Elias Zerhouni

Graduation speeches are usually pretty cliché. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech to the University of Houston Spring 2017 graduating class—I can’t say whether it was cliché or not, because I skipped the Commencement ceremony and still haven’t watched the video on Facebook, but, you know, maybe it wasn’t. In any case, Dylan said he liked it, and as he is the graduate, his opinion is the one that matters.

A little backstory: we met through a mutual friend at Brazosport College, both pursuing an Associate of Arts degree. I was fresh out of high school, and since he’s three years older than me, he’d already been at BC for a little while. He graduated the summer before I did, I think, and neither of us walked; BC is less organized than Brazoswood High School, yet more organized than the University of Houston, and still, I’m not sure that we knew we were supposed to walk. I didn’t, anyway; I went to what was supposed to be my graduation, to watch my friend Nabeel graduate, and when I walked inside, Sarah—one of my now-former coworkers in the Student Life office—pointed at me and said, “You’re supposed to be walking today.” I looked back at her. “I am?” So, that happened. Maybe I’ll walk for UH—I haven’t decided yet, and fortunately I have a year to figure that out.

I transferred to the University of Houston in the spring of 2014, and Dylan followed a semester after. We both enrolled for English degrees, no surprise there, though his concentration always was Literature, and mine is now and always was intended to be Creative Writing. He finished his English major quickly and decided to minor in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations, and he finished that quickly, too. He’s done so well this past semesters, and I’m so proud of him. He’s come so far.

It was not easy. I think it’s okay for me to speak for him when I say that. The work could come easily, but the day to day did not always, and I know from my own experience that college life is not always as easy as it looks. Especially when he must commute an hour each way, several times a week, and often had to get up before dawn because I had early morning classes and we carpooled, even when he was unable to sleep at night.

I picked up his laptop yesterday from where it sat in his room, and had to brush the dust off the top of it; he told me he hasn’t used it since he turned in his last paper for class. It must be somewhat of a relief to no longer need it for academia—moreover, to have his classes behind him. I say “somewhat” because now it will be back to the real world, a job, bills, etc. and the real world is often scary and unforgiving. But I have faith in him, because I’ve seen him do it before. I don’t think even he knows what he’s capable of, but I do. He’ll be okay.

The quote is for you, Dylan. I understand as best I can where you are right now. You struggle, of course, and you’re only human so you must. But please… Dream of impossibilities, and live your life to create them. I won’t say that now that you’ve graduated college, your life can begin, because I know you’d say that’s bullshit—so I will say this: you have the whole rest of your life ahead of you, every day, and when I said yesterday that we will travel, I meant it. We will. We’ll do everything that you want to do, and that I want to do, and that we want to do, and we have the same bright future ahead of us that we always have. I’m writing this now and starting to tear up, because you don’t know how proud I am of you, and how much I know you have so much more in front of you. Yes, it has started to sink in a little more now that you’ve finished, and that when I go back to school in the fall, you won’t be going with me. But that’s okay, because I am so proud of how you’ve finished. How far you’ve come. Of the person that you are, inside of you—every part of you, even the messy parts. The person that makes me want to be a better me.

Sure. It’s a cliché; but it’s a beautiful one.

Of the Average College Student

Wish we could turn back time. To the good old days. When our mamas sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.

Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” is probably the song of the average college student, and plays overhead as Dylan and I do homework at Brew -n- Bake, our favorite locally-owned coffee shop in our hometown.

“It’s overplayed,” Dylan complains, and he’s probably right about that, but I commented on how accurate the song is, when he caught me staring out the window lip-syncing along, and that’s not any less true. It’s very accurate, and some days I’d give up anything just to be a kid again for an afternoon. I don’t remember my mom ever singing me to sleep, but, you know, that’s fine. As long as the stress is taken off—that’s what would matter. To go back to the “good old days” where all I really had to stress about was bringing home a B on my report card in math, and whether or not my friends were really my friends.

I guess from one point of view, the trade-off now is worth it, because I have real friends, and don’t have to worry about what they really think. Shoutout to Bianca, Emily, and Melissa, my three French friends on campus: when it comes to our French classes, you girls make it all worth it, and I don’t know what I’d do without you. The downside, though, is that I stress about every major assignment: every test, every exam, every presentation, in my French classes and even my English classes, which never used to affect me like this. Sometimes it feels so overwhelming, to the point that, last semester, my mom asked me if I’d rather drop my French major and just do it as a minor, and drop being in the Honors college. I told her no, of course, but she doesn’t know how much it means to me that she asked. That it would be okay if I wanted to do that. It takes me back to one day, probably two years ago now in the fall, she came into my room and found me crying with my English homework spread across my bed in front of me, and a math problem scribbled across the back of a piece of paper: I was calculating what it would take for me to earn an A in that class for the semester, after one bad exam grade and only two more exams to go: it was a lot, and I was having a panic attack because of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing. She’s often told me that if I need to see a psychiatrist about anxiety, I can do that, and some days I consider it. A couple of semesters into UH, I diagnosed myself with generalized anxiety disorder, though I’ve never seen anybody about it or attempted to do anything about it. Being self-diagnosed, I’m not even sure how accurate it is, but maybe it also serves an explanation for how neurotic I can be.

Everybody says I’m too hard on myself. I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe it is, but even if it is, I’d rather my parents and Dylan and my friends tell me that I need to cut myself some slack, than have them tell me that I’m not working hard enough. Because already, I tell myself that, all the time.

I know how important it is to slow down, unwind, and take time to love yourself. I believe in that. But the fact seems to be that I just run on stress, and in my head, I’m still pushing myself often to do better. To run more on coffee and less on sleep. Stay up late, write. I can sleep when I’m dead. Not that I’ve been doing any of that—maybe it’s good I have a love affair with my bed. Maybe that’s how I unwind. Sleep.

For now, though, there’s no time for that, so it’s coffee and French homework.