It was a strange feeling walking into Mabee Arena on the Kansas Wesleyan Campus on Saturday afternoon. It’s a gym that I enter about 150 times a year for different sporting activities, events or just because I need to say hello to the purple and gold trimmed room. But even in all the times I enter that room, there is one event that lingers in a strange air. Graduation is always one of the most emotionally tolling and confusing events of the calendar year.
I see students, bright futures ahead of them and yet, I still feel a selfish tinge of sadness.
That gym and the campus in its entirety will always be THE most important place in the world to me because it is the place where I became Hannah Holt. I can take a walk on those brick laid paths and tell you a story for nearly every stone that lays before you. “Remember the time we stole everyone’s remotes and filled Brittany’s bathtub with cheese balls? Or the time we did a nearly naked jump in the fountain? Oh! Or what about the time EVERYONE bought nerf guns and it ended in war?” We dragged our rears out of bed for morning practice and class, we got in fights with each other, ourselves, our homework. I remember being so mad at assignments I cried. I knew depression and heartache and worry and strife.
But for each story of the brick sidewalks, was a moment of choice. It was the choice to give up or keep pressing on, to renew a friendship or dump one that was toxic, to do my work or procrastinate. The list goes on and on, but with every choice I made, I created the being I am today. I am barely a woman with dirt under her nails from work, tired eyes, a heavy back and joy in her eyes. I became the fire that drives good business and the heart that doesn’t balk when it could be hurt. Did the outcome of my choices hurt sometimes? Oh absolutely. Do I wish I had done things differently? Yeah, kind of, but the lesson did in fact stick.
What makes me very selfishly sad looking out across the sea of black caps and gowns is knowing that life will change them and in turn, change me. Nearly all the bodies in the seats will be in different places in this world within a month. Some will move home, move somewhere new or maybe stay in the comfort of Salina. Wherever they choose to move, they will all move on from the warm walls of that campus. It means they will change and grow and evolve. Most, I will probably never see again and that will have to be okay, even if it makes me terribly sad.
What I want for all of them, though, is to experience hurt, loss and heartbreak and still be able to find joy in this world. To know that on the back of every cloud is a beautiful silver lining that can be elusive, but always available. I was hurt by the very people who offered support in the beginning of my adult journey, and because of the kindness of friends, I found solace in something that I hope sparks my soul everyday.
For those who have children, friends or other family batting their wings, looking back at you, ready to fly the nest, I hope you come to peace with knowing there will be struggles, failures and the rest of the negative gamut, but from you they will know hope and resiliency. They will have the tools they need to fight.