Thursday, May 22, 2014

Real World: "Commence"

I apologize for yet another extended absence (although nothing can beat my March - May absence, oops), but I promise this absence was with good reason. As of Saturday, May 17th, I am officially a college graduate! And the University of Texas at Austin is now my alma mater (I may have teared up when President Bill Powers said those words).

Because it is impossible for me to sum up the past four years in a single post (and believe me, I sat down multiple times to try and do so), I will simply say that my four years at UT were truly the best four years of my life, and I am so thankful for the people I met, the friends I made, the opportunities I had, the laughs I shared, and the education I received. I could not have asked for a better college experience, and I will only look back at my time at UT with the fondest of memories. And I think this quote from The Office sums things up pretty well, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them."

Graduation Weekend

My family arrived in Austin late Friday afternoon, and Dylan and I met them at The Roaring Fork out in North Austin for a 7:30pm dinner. We timed it pretty perfectly in order to see the sunset over the water as we were enjoying a delicious dinner. It came as no surprise to anyone that I ordered the salmon dish (predictable), with an order of asparagus on the side. I intended for the asparagus to be for anyone who wanted it, but I ended up eating most of it all by myself. Oops.

It was wonderful, and it was also great to see my family for the first time since accepting my job!

After dinner, we parted ways for the night, but we reconvened in the morning when they picked me up for a 12:30pm graduation ceremony. 

This was the ceremony in which my name was called out, I walked across the stage, and I received my diploma (or a piece of paper promising my diploma).

Because there were only 117 of us graduating with a degree in English, the ceremony was fairly short, and we processed out around 1:45pm.

We then made our way over to the Tower to take some oh-so-original pictures by the Tower,

before piling back in the car to eat a late lunch at Gloria's in the Domain. I was essentially starving by this point, so I filled up on chips and guacamole (mainly so I wouldn't be drinking my orange mojito on an empty stomach) before my shrimp and chicken salad came.

I still managed to eat every last bite, and I think we were all in agreement that it was more than time for a nap. We headed back to the Clubhouse to relax before the evening festivities began. I was contemplating (not really) skipping my own commencement, thanks to exhaustion and a headache, but I have heard from so many people how rewarding the big commencement ceremony is. And though I was standing outside the PCL for a little under an hour, and it took all of the graduates 45 minutes to process onto the Main Mall, it was absolutely worth every single minute to be a part of the evening's festivities.

Both University President Bill Powers and our student body president spoke before we heard from the star of the show - Admiral William McRaven. He is the commander of the U.S. Special Operations, and he actually led Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden. So, it only made sense that a U-S-A chant broke out among the students. McRaven is a '77 UT grad, and I may be a little biased, but his speech was easily one of the best speeches I have ever heard. I was so inspired that I wished I had a pen and paper to whip out so that I could take notes. Luckily, we are currently living in the 21st century, and a full copy of the speech is available online for your reading pleasure, as is a video recording of the actual speech if you prefer to listen and watch. I HIGHLY recommend that you give it a read and/or listen, because I was left feeling highly motivated to change the world. Because our tagline is "What Starts Here Changes The World," here are Admiral McRaven's 10 ways to change the world:

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
5. If you want to change the world, don't be afraid of the circuses.
6. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.
7. If you want to change the world, don't back down from the sharks.
8. If you want to change, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.
9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you're up to your neck in mud.
10. If you want to change the world, don't ever, ever ring the bell.

Again, I highly recommend reading through the entire speech, because it was simply amazing, and I guarantee you will finish feeling inspired. So, in the words of Admiral McRaven, 
  • Start each day with a task completed.
  • Find someone to help you through life.
  • Respect everyone.
  • Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up.
After his incredible speech, the dean of each college stood up, said a few words, the Tower was lit up with each corresponding color, and finally, the Tower was lit a beautiful burnt orange while sporting a '14. The grand finale was the fireworks show, which was easily one of the best that I have ever seen.

It was a truly incredible night, and I have to admit that I had goosebumps as I sang "The Eyes of Texas" at the conclusion of the ceremony. I am so proud to be an alum, and an official Texas Ex, of the greatest university in the world, and I absolutely cannot wait to get out there and change the world!

Cheesy, but true. As bittersweet as it is to end this chapter of my life, I could not be more excited for the new chapter that lies ahead. As I mentioned in this post, I will be teaching English at Bellaire High School, and I have also just accepted a position coaching freshman volleyball. A mere 30 minutes after I walked the stage, I received a text message from one of the coaches at Memorial High School asking if I would be interested in coaching at Bellaire. Overwhelmed with all that was happening in that moment, I gave it a few hours before replying with a resounding (as resounding as a text message can be) YES. I can't tell you how much my volleyball years - and my incredible coaches - meant to me, and I look forward to (hopefully) having even half the impact on these players that my coaches had on me. I know that being a first-year teacher is going to be tough enough, only to throw a crazy volleyball schedule on top of that, but I knew I would have regretted saying no to this opportunity. 

I met with the head coach at Bellaire yesterday afternoon, and I went up to Bellaire again this morning to talk specifics, go over the calendar, and learn a little bit about the Bellaire volleyball program. I left the school feeling even more excited than I ever thought I would be, so I'm going to go ahead and say that I made the right choice in saying yes to this opportunity. And I cannot forget to thank the numerous coaches I have had along the way that have been nothing but supportive and helpful throughout my career as a player, and now on my journey to becoming a coach. Y'all are the best, and I cant' wait to see you guys on the (other side of) the court!

And hopefully the regularly scheduled posts will resume starting tomorrow - I'll do my best to make that happen!

*Disclaimer: I typed this post up on Tuesday evening, and am just now getting around to posting it, so I apologize if some of the verb tenses don't make as much sense.

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