In one month and eleven days, I will graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree that says I’ve been present at the University for around 120 hours of class since I first arrived in the Fall of 2012. 120 hours. That is five full days; 7,200 minutes; 432,000 seconds.
What my degree will not state, is that on average, a lesson plan–a good one–will sometimes take up to a week to perfect (sometimes a lot more); that I’ve lived with not one, but seven of my best friends over the last four years; that I’ve dated two boys, had one heartbreak, one great love, and countless moments wondering what I’ve done right or done wrong. That degree doesn’t state that I’ve had 610 elementary students that changed my life; two casts of high-school students that made me realize one of my dreams; or that I’ve questioned myself over and over and over again, only to realize that my questions had answers only I could find.
My point–in short–is that four years is simultaneously too much, and not enough. We spend hours perfecting the best schedule, only to realize we’ve forgotten the extra hours that go into the art we create, so why bother with technicalities anyways. We feel excitement, worry, anxiety, love, passion, anger, depression…and we keep questioning what we’re doing here, what we’re learning. And then something crazy happens. We have a student that sees a picture of Viola Davis, and yells, “Hey! She looks like ME!” Or we take a class that goes far beyond the three hour credit. We fall in love in a new place. We fall out of love in a familiar place. We worry we aren’t enough. We realize we are.
The University doesn’t broadcast how little that 120 hour credit mark really means in comparison to the stretch of time you spend in, out, and around a classroom, learning about who you are.
I think what I’m getting at, is that I am not the same person that moved to Austin four years ago. I have encountered happiness, depression, anxiety, love, and confusion, more times that I can count. I’ve learned–oh boy have I learned–that I will question myself about my worthiness nine times out of ten, but that one time I recognize I’m so much more than enough, I’ll be a better person for having asked questions in the first place.
Those questions of who am i? Where do I belong? What are my aspirations? What if I never do anything extraordinary? They all make me who I am. They make me a life-long learner. They make me committed to the drive it will take to get where I want to go. So yeah, right now I’m sitting here wondering if the sum of my choices will add up to something great, but in the end, even if they don’t–they’ll still be experiences that taught me about myself.
How lucky am I, to look around at all of my peers, and realize I get to take a piece of them with me wherever I go. I know kindness because I met this silly, crazy, girl named Carson in my first BFA class. I’ll know humility and strength because Mallori Carr sat next to me in Individual Differences–and I never let her leave. I’ll know that my artistic side doesn’t leave me when I teach, because Kathryn and Nick show me that every day. I’ll know that beauty is created, not categorized, because Lisa Martinez walked into my life.
Most of all, I’ll know that my voice matters, because Amber Prince never doubted me. She taught me how to love my broken pieces, my ideas, and my dreams.
These are just a few of the multitude of mentors, colleagues, and students I’ve encountered, loved, and learned from, as I’ve finished up my degree in Theatre Studies. This list doesn’t even begin to list the many life-changing relationships I’ve formed inside and outside of the University.
So in one month and eleven days, I will walk across a stage and receive a degree that states I’ve completed 120 credit hours at the University of Texas. And when I begin to walk, I’ll be overwhelmed to know that I’ve learned so much more than a credit hour can stand for–I’ve learned how to grow into the person I am.