Friday, June 22, 2012

graduation memories...

Saturday was my baby sister's high school graduation. Seven years ago that was me with the same cap and gown, honors cords, gold EHS stole. Same place. Different time. High school graduation is such a sorted life event. It is meaningful and meaningless all in the same breath. More on that concept in a separate post.

Unlike many girls at my sister's graduation, I chose to wear my black bow flats instead of five inch heels. I had to walk up and down that stage twice. Falling was the last thing I wanted to do. My sister chose to wear red Vans. That's how we spotted her in the mass processional. Where is she? Where is she? Just look for the red shoes!

I remember frantically searching for Johnson before we had to process onto the arena floor. What if I mess up my speech? What if I forget my words? Somehow I found him. Riss, you're going to be fine. Take a deep breath. That was all I needed. A vote of confidence from my coach whom I loved so well. If he knew I could do it, then I did too.

Like the two speakers at my sister's graduation, I believe I delivered a timely and smart graduation speech. However, my speech didn't reference "YOLO". Drake hadn't yet come on the scene to promote that ideal.

My family sat in the same seats for my sister's ceremony as we did for mine. It felt strange to be sitting in the seats with the people who I looked up to for love and confidence during my own ceremony. It was wonderful to see my sister's smiling face and cheer her on. We tried to bring the house down with our cheering when they called her name. She told us later that she didn't hear anything. She was in her own world.

After receiving my diploma, Johnson was there at the bottom of the steps. A perfect ending to my high school career. His eyes and smile reflected the confidence he'd help me find. Without Johnson I would not be who I am today. It sounds cliche but it's true. His confidence in me fostered my own confidence. I knew he recognized and believed in my worth as an individual and athlete. 

My sister said she had the perfect graduation night. It couldn't have been better. She was truly happy and that doesn't happen a lot. After the ceremony (which was only one hour and nine minutes...fantastic), Spencer and I accompanied my sister, Kara, and Hakim to the bowling alley on 164th. We bowled until 2:00am, laughing and rocking out to old school music videos. Plus, to my brother's delight, we were there for cosmic bowling.

My post graduation night didn't go as planned. Keely and I were supposed to get together for pie and such but my Aunt Zanne ended up taking my entire family, including my friends John and Michelle, out to dinner. It was fun but not what I'd expected.

So much has happened in my life since that day in June seven years ago. My high school best friend walked out of my life. The first boy I loved broke my heart and I learned how to heal. My brother came out that he was gay. Depression became part of my daily struggle. My family moved to a new house.

A major depressive episode forced me to withdraw from college. A little less than a year later I found myself at a different university, a place where I spent three years finally knowing what it meant to be happy. I met Sarah, Josh, Chad, Emilee, Cassie, and Amy. I finally had my first kiss. I had an amazing job with the alumni association with the best boss anyone could ask for. I bought my first car. My grandpa died.

I dated a boy who I thought I would marry, but we were never on the same page. My best friend Sarah left on a mission, as well as my two other closest girls, Emilee and Cass. It was a long two+ years while they were away.

I graduated magna cum laude with my bachelor's degree in English from Utah State. I took an internship with the Church and moved to SLC. My high school bestie Keely and I got to live in the same city for the first time since high school. Chadly got married. My brother found the love of his life. 

I decided to apply to grad school and was accepted to Gonzaga and DePaul. I chose DePaul, moved home for the summer, and then drove over 2,000 miles with my dad to Chicago. Keely moved to LA. Sarah had her first kiss. Our dogs Caddie and Russell passed away and Brinkley entered our lives. I sold my first car. My dad lost his job with Pemco where he'd worked for 15+ years.

Earlier this month I finished my first year of grad school. This September will mark my one year mark living in Chicago. In less than two weeks I'm flying to Utah to visit my friends and extended family. I can hardly wait!

If you'd asked me seven years ago what I thought my life would be like now I certainly wouldn't have painted this picture. I thought I'd be married and planning the rest of my life with someone else. Hopefully have at least one kid. However, that hasn't been my story and I've had to find peace with that. I know my opportunity will come when it's the right time.

Plans and goals are good to have but we aren't in full control of our lives. Heavenly Father takes us down the right paths even when we don't know where we're going. The words of the Natasha Bedingfield song they played at EE's graduation say it all: "The rest is still unwritten."


  1. Your writing is so succinct and beautiful, evoking little droplets down my cheek. So sorry we couldn't attend as I was looking forward to it, and sorry I missed seeing you. Very proud you are continuing your education. Have fun in Utah. Love You, Auntie Zanne

  2. I loved this. I miss you, and I'm glad I got to be part of a small snippet of your life in Salt Lake.