Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Graduation, A Shift In Identity

          As I am sitting in my bedroom in Ohio, I realize that it has been a month since I have last written. So much has happened in the last month, so many memories made, both happy and sad. I am now a college graduate. That makes me sound so much older and mature than what I feel. I have to admit that graduation Sunday was actually a terrible day for me. I had stayed up most the night before with friends and thus on Sunday I was tired, crabby, and honestly just deeply mourning the end of what has been the best four years of my life. For me, graduation was not a celebration of the work I have achieved, but a rough shove out of EMU into the real world. For with the end of college came a loss in identity.
         No longer am I a college student. I can no longer claim that title and sense of identity. I have been a student for the last sixteen years and now all of a sudden, it no longer holds true. As I walked around an empty campus the days following graduation, I also realized that I no longer belong at EMU. Yes, as I was reminded by a friend, EMU will always be a home to me just like Hogwarts was to Harry. However, it is not the same... things will never again be the same. I am not an EMU student and will no longer be involved in EMU clubs and events. When I visit, I come as an alum, not an active part of the EMU community. Since I moved right after high school graduation, Northwest Ohio has never felt like home; I don't really belong here. And now I don't belong at EMU either. For a few days in the last month, I felt like I didn't belong anywhere. I lost my identity as an EMU student and thus believed I lost my identity all together.
          But do not worry, I have some of the best friends and mentors in the world and was soon reminded of who I am. I may still be in mourning at the end of the era, but I am also truly excited for the future. This summer I will be attending orientation for Brethren Volunteer Service and then taking off this fall to begin a two-year term most likely in Eastern Europe. These past four years have shaped who I am and I will take that identity with me as I go. So who am I and how have I been shaped in the last four years? I would like to end with the words of my one of my campus pastors, Byron Peachey, who served as a mentor to me and presented me with the Cords of Distinction Award. To read more about this special award, go to I have to say that this ceremony the day before graduation was more meaningful than receiving my diploma and I am so blessed to have been part of such a great community.
         "Come with me and step into Julia's apartment... look around and you'll see her eye for beauty and a quality of gentleness in the paintins she's done, over here closet doors have been removed to create a little more space for guests. On the table is her tea set to host and provide a space for conversation with fellow students, ministry assistants, with Shane Claiborne, and me. On of her professors says "Everyone seems to know Julia" - because they've come over for tea, or because they've heard hr speak in Common Grounds about the Conflict Free Campus Initiative focused on the Congo. Perhaps they know Julia through her leadership role with SGA, with Peace Fellowship, or Res Judicata or from something she's written in the Weathervane. Or maybe she's met with them one-on-one throughout the year in her role as a Pastoral Assistan.
          At EMU we hear the slogan -- "serve and lead in a global context," which Julia already is putting into practice. I've listened to her reflect on a cross-cultural semester in Belgium, her Ministry Inquiry Program summer with a church in San Antonio, Texas, her travel with a Christian Peacemaker Team to Iraq, and finally because - 'hey, the tickets were so cheap!' about her Spring Break in Istanbul. Characteristically, she drew four other students in going along with her. 
          Julia is a person of mystery -- with all her involvements when did she do her homework? I'm sure she's had plenty because not only is she graduating with a major in History, but also minors in Peacebuilding, Pre-law, Political Studies, Philosophy, and Bible & Religion. Julia is profoundly curious about the world, and her studies point toward a vocation of advocacy for human rights, for systemic change, and for cultivation of deep relationships. A graduate student from Africa says she has 'a heart of peace, sense of leadership, and competency of mobilization."
          She loves 'to plan adventures to brighten people's day.' 'She's one of my heroes!' says one of her faculty mentors, 'She is the best we have!' And now Julia, we have to let you go -- knowing you have truly made our campu community a better blace. 
          Wherever you go -- and recreate your apartment of hospitality -- you'll continue to share all you've learned and integrated in yourself, with friendships you've begun here, within the wider church, to strangers in other places who will become your colleagues and friends. I am so proud to present you with the Cords of Distinction."

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