Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Bulldog, an aggie, a Bigham

Well aware of the significance of last week, I chose to heed to the advice of a recent Ladies' Home Journal Magazine article and Slow Down as I savored my final moments at Fresno State. I took my time strolling through the campus, opposite my usual pace. My leisurely walks allowed me “to look at the places and people with curiosity and wonder,” just as the article suggested.

It would have been a shame if I had left that school, without ever appreciating its beauty. I have managed to overlook the character of my campus, caught up in deadlines, exams and conversations along the way. But I first realized it when mom and I intentionally sought out picturesque scenery for photo backdrops the week school got out. We covered every square inch of that campus, admiring the lush greenery and wide open spaces.

As the end drew near I took figurative snapshots of my surroundings, drinking in what would hopefully be lasting memories, resistant to fade. I was distinctly aware of the last lecture, final presentation, last class session and final exam. Grief and joy went head-to-head in the battle to win my heart. Both held their own as I continuously dubbed the experience “bittersweet.”

I took a final on Monday, another on Tuesday completing the least stressful finals week for a graduating senior; Mom and I shopped, got a pedicure and ran errands Wednesday, precursors to the upcoming celebration; My parents attended the animal science/agriculture education banquet with me Thursday where the president of the FFA conference committee recognized my achievement as the Web Proceedings co-chair; and my family offered their support at the department of agriculture’s commencement ceremony Friday and the university commencement ceremony Saturday. The week seemed to creep by in slow motion, but in retrospect I’m not sure where the time went.

My graduation was everything I hoped it would be. I made up my mind to enjoy every second of it. Plenty of opportunities arose for me to be robbed of my joy. However, I am grateful to say that I held tightly to it, refusing to relinquish my grip.

At Friday’s ceremony, we were individually recognized and awarded on stage. Pride swelled as my name was called and I extended that recognition to my parents in the audience with a kiss from the stage. I cheered loudly for my friends, and their achievements, recognizing that our lives were about to change drastically. I am proud to have them as my friends, proud of their accomplishments and proud to have experienced college with them.

These moments seemed surreal—yet I was caught up in the reality of them. I cherished the moment my name was announced, the opportunity I was given to thank my amazing advisor, Dr. Rocca, with a hug on stage, and the moments of silence and deafening applause. Pride was so thick in the air it weighed on my shoulders and the bond between the students in the college of ag never seemed tighter.

But nothing compared to spotting my family in the audience, expressing their pride in my achievement; especially Saturday when family and friends filled the Save Mart Center. Adrenaline rushed through our bones as we waited backstage to enter the arena. We were the final college to enter, so we spent our time, joking, laughing, taking pictures, and releasing shouts of joy. Each minute and step we took closer to making our grand entrance, the anticipation magnified.

It took me a while to find my family, so I had the entire walk to our seats to soak up the experience and sear it into my memory. When we stepped out onto the floor, the crowd enveloped us with shouts of recognition and simultaneous waves. I seemed to make my way to my seat in slow motion, listening to individual shouts from the audience, knowing that some of them belonged to me. My eyes scanned rows and rows and rows of seats—half looking to see if the occupants were my kin, half amazed by the amount of people participating in this event—for us.

I was feeling on top of the world until my face flashed on the screen above. At that moment, I thought I owned it. The camera captured our shouts, extended arms and the biggest smiles we’ve ever known.

The moment I found my family, the world stopped turning as we shared in it together. An equal blend of joy, pride and gratitude overcame me, an overwhelming emotion I had never known before. My hands flew in the air so proud that my achievement was what brought them there that day. They rose to their feet so fast, extending hands toward mine, our shouts getting lost somewhere in between. The diploma I received on that day belongs in part to those individuals.

Being the first in the family to graduate was a struggle. Generational inclinations had to be broken. I did it. I stood my own, but only because of their support. They wanted it for me as bad as I did myself and at times, more. When I saw them standing there waving, I felt as if I was the guest there to recognize all of their hard work and devotion. I’m so blessed to share the accomplishment with them, knowing that our name, “BIGHAM,” now belongs to the one percent of graduates in the world.

My slower pace last week reminded me of all that I have to be proud of: I am extremely proud of my identity as a Bulldog, an aggie and a Bigham.

For more on the commencement, please see Fresno State commencement a new beginning