Philly, for a second.

Photo of home

This weekend, I visited home for the first time in six months. I know that many twenty-somethings are too busy or too broke to journey home more than once a year, so I really can’t complain if I get to make the trip twice or three even times. But even so, I crave the simple comforts of drinking coffee on the porch in the morning, reading on the hammock, waking up in my childhood bed… more and more after each visit.

Photo of hammock

For me, going home is like rereading a favorite book: There are no surprises and I already know all the characters. But there is something so soothing about thumbing through the same dog-eared pages, falling into rhythm with the familiar words and phrases, and, more than anything, reacquainting myself with my favorite characters.

Photo with dad circa 1995

My dad is the hero of this story, and Father’s Day was the reason for my visit. As his only daughter, I can’t image how terrifying it must have been to watch me accelerate through adolescence, push through the tangle of my teenage years, leave home for college and city life, move into my first apartment, apply for jobs, graduate… He has always been there to offer guidance, or just to listen, as I continue to get lost between the lines of my own story.

From day one, he’s loved me more than any man ever could.

Photo 1st picture with dad

He supported my city, long before we ever knew I’d live here…

Photo of Dad in Red Sox hat

Told me where to go to find my heart’s closest desire…

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And still keeps me well-stocked with my favorite coffee.

Photo of Wawa coffee

He’s kept his faith in me unwavering, even when I doubted myself…

Photo grad card from dad

And has always been there to catch me if I fall.

Photo beach with dad

Every time I go home, to the same house where my dad grew up, I am reminded of how beautiful my childhood was. But this story I’m writing has only gotten better with age. In devoting his life to taking care of his family, my dad has taught me that there is no greater measure for success than happiness. And he could not have raised a happier, or more grateful, little girl.

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My gradual graduation

Photo of graduation caps

Courtesy of Betterment.com

This Sunday, I am going to GRADUATE. Actually, I graduated months ago, in December. But my college doesn’t hold a ceremony for fall graduates, so I’m walking with the rest of the 2013 class this weekend.

I feel like I’ve been in a kind of limbo ever since I “officially” finished school. Last semester, I attended my final class periods and handed in my final projects. Soon after, my status in the college database updated to “Former Student.” A month later, I received my diploma in the mail.

Throwback:

Packed and ready for Freshman year

Photo of packed car

Now, I’m finally walking, and I can’t say I’m all that excited. People keep telling me this is “a big deal.” Administrators have bombarded my cobweb of a school email, regarding my “huge achievement,” for weeks. Even in my final semester, during which I went part-time, I felt like I already had one foot out the door. And the other, tapping timidly at the future ahead.

What do I have to complain about? Absolutely nothing. Graduating early meant scoring a job in my industry, as well as saving a couple thousands of dollars in student loans and tuition costs. And honestly, I never knew I could have so much free time until I graduated (hence, this blog). I guess the distance between graduating and formally commencing makes me feel somewhat removed from the ordeal.

But I’m going to turn this post around. I am closing a chapter to my life that has been filled with discovery, laughter, and unmatchable friendships. So here are a few highlights from my college years, pulled from a colorful and limitless list:

I lived in a castle in Europe for three months.

Photo of the castle

I was published in a student literary journal.

Photo of The Black Swan

I spent spring break of my sophomore year in Athens, Greece.

Photo of Athens

In my first month of college, I made the cover of the school newspaper.

For being quarantined with Swine Flu.

Photo of swine flu

Courtesy of The Berkeley Beacon

Freshman year, I went to the Common for a picnic and homework.

And found myself in a haze of smoke.

Photo of the Common

Hemp Fest 2009

The BPD were kind enough to make an appearance at my 21st birthday party.

Photo of captain & fancy glass

I not-so-secretly stalked the more attractive members of my school’s alumnus.

Photo of Denis Leary

Last summer, I shared a 5-bedroom apartment with 7 roommates and a cat.

Photo of apartment

The cat escaped unscathed. (More later on my relationship with animals).

Photo of cat

I learned how to cook, and how to love to cook.

Photo of soup

I cyber-stalked and finally met Patriot’s tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Photo of Rob Gronkowski

I worked at a bookstore or a library (or both) the entire time I was in college.

Photo of bookshelves

I made the best friends, better than any I could have ever asked for.

Photo of the esplanade

Just like every portion of life, or every week, or every day for that matter, college was a series of struggles and successes. But what stands out to me the most is not a single challenge I faced or a trial I overcame, but the people who were there to shape those experiences. For me, college is not a dusty yearbook on the shelf or a piece of paper on the wall, but a living, breathing phenomenon that I will continue to take from, learn from, and carry with me for the rest of my life.

So thank you to all who were there for the journey. College is over, but we’ve got a lifetime to go.