A month ago, at 4 a.m., I was worrying in my bed in Chapel Hill, sorting through a checklist of items in my head. Was my graduation gown wrinkle free? Would the rain hold off for the big day? What am I going to do with my life?
One day you wake up and feel as though you must have all the answers. That day was graduation day. As you leave the comfortable community you’ve grown to love, you realize becoming a working professional was something that seemed far off in the distance for so long. The fear of the unknown. The harsh reality of becoming a grown-up. One foot in, one foot out. Growing pains as they say.
The last weeks of my college experience were dominated by final exams, job interviews and the overwhelming need to do everything I could to commemorate my time as a Tar Heel.
Tears streamed down my face with each step I took down the stairs of Carmichael Arena as I said goodbye to the community that welcomed me as a girl and said, “see you later” to a young woman.
I graduated in May with degrees in journalism, political science and chemistry. As many of my friends prepared to move to new cities, my path looked a little different.
I worried this summer trip would hinder my ability to move forward as a successful professional. Questions filled my mind as I tried to make sense of this transition, from college student to adult.
Now, as I return home to share the stories of others, I realize the power of my own story. I come back to North Carolina, a better student, friend and citizen. Whether it’s the inability to find ice and reliable air conditioning, learning how to use a pickaxe, or holding a conversation about the afterlife with a person who believes differently, we all have the innate desire to be happy, to be loved, to have a purpose. We can travel thousands of miles to talk with people who seem immeasurably different from us only to discover they are not so different.
I found, and continue to find, a community that builds me up and inspires me to be the best version of myself. Our time in Israel served as a reminder that the camaraderie I found in college isn’t something that ends the minute you cross a stage or shake a hand. It can be found in every corner of the world if we dare to seek it.
In the stillness of silence, I am reminded that no matter where I am in life, no matter what comes my way, and no matter how far away I feel from what once was, there is always the ability to find joy. Similarly, an inability to see goodness or possibility does not diminish the light that already exists.
Thank you, Carolina, for instilling this in me and for giving me so much more than a degree. I am excited and determined to find Carolina blue skies, even on cloudy days.
This article was originally published as a part of the UNC Media Hub program in the School of Media and Journalism and has been republished by The Daily Tar Heel. Caroline Bass is not a regular writer for The Daily Tar Heel.