I Hope You Made Some Mistakes...

10:07 AM

All I saw was the word, "CONGRATULATIONS" and I started to cry. It's official. I will graduate with my Master's in Modern European History on May 5th, 2015 and I am now a professional historian!

It is unreasonable to think that this little country girl who never really left Arkansas would decide to study French history. In fact, I had a professional historian once tell me that he was uncertain of how I could succeed in this field, but that he had high hopes that I would.

That professor's concerns were valid. I had my work cut out for me. I had to overcome some obstacles that other French historians probably didn't have. I had very little French background & only a moderate understanding of Europe and it's history. Furthermore, I'm a first generation college student and the first in my family to obtain a Master's. And when I think about the fact that I temporarily dropped out of school at the end of Fall 2013 due to homelessness and divorce...it is unreasonable that I'm graduating with my Master's in May 2015, as planned when I entered the program.

Aside from the grace of God, I couldn't really begin to tell you how I made it here. In fact, as I sat there, crying and looking at the email from my exam committee affirming my degree completion, I just asked myself, "How? How did I get here? How did I complete all of my coursework? How did I pass every class, every paper, every test? How?" I answered my own question with a laugh and said, “It was mostly just trial and error.” I shrugged it off and attempted to come up with some deeper meaning behind graduation.

But the more I thought about what it means for me to graduate... or really, for anyone to graduate period, the more I realized that there is so much validity to the “trial and error” that I thought was trivial.

At Loyola University Chicago, one of the things that I love about the school's mission is the simple promise that our pledge, our goal as students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni, is to "prepare people to lead extraordinary lives." I certainly feel that my time at Loyola has been a huge part of my life preparation. But, I don’t want to just honor the destination of “extraordinary” without also honoring the journey it took to get to this present moment.

In my three years of graduate school, I saw a lot of personal, professional, and academic growth. I've talked a lot about that growth here on my blog. So much of it came by way of mistakes, by trial and error. Academically, it came by having a professor sit down with me and kindly tell me that, “my writing needed 'some' work…” followed by a grueling two-hour session of line-by-line edits. That semester, I turned in four drafts of that paper before this professor said to me, “Finally, you get it! Whatever formula you used this time, keep it for future papers.” I don’t think I’ve ever jumped for joy so much in a school elevator than I did after that meeting. Luckily, I stopped celebrating right before someone else joined me on the way down to the lobby.

Professionally, my trial and error came by losing a job, quitting another one, and spending some time really praying and thinking about what I want to do for the rest of my life. When I finally understood my calling to ministry (People Church, whaddup??!), I was in awe, intimidated, and really grateful for the skills I’ve learned that will help me sort out my life post-graduation.

Personally, I found a lot of joy through trial and error. I let go of some relationships to find better ones. I learned to appreciate my imperfections, to gain perspective from my mistakes. To work hard for success…to think about how I can improve when I wasn’t so successful, and to celebrate the wins whenever I was successful.

In this way, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a perfect person. I don’t see someone who is graduating without a few scars. I see someone who has tried and failed at times. When I think about the people I know who are graduating this year, from high school, undergrad, or grad school, I don’t see perfection. Instead, I see resilience. I see friends and families from diverse backgrounds and life circumstances who, by trial and error, successes and failures, have reached a momentous occasion of triumph in their lives. We made it. We are graduating. We are more prepared now to be the best versions of ourselves than ever before.

So, in short, I hope you made some mistakes on this journey. I realize that’s probably not the type of encouragement you would expect to hear, but it’s the truth. I hope that life wasn’t perfect, that sometimes things were difficult. For, it is in those times that we feel the weakest that we often find out how strong we are. I hope that this journey to getting your degree wasn’t always easy and that amidst the highs and lows, you never let your successes get to your head or your failures get to your heart. I hope that you saw trial and error in and out of the classroom. And I hope that you grew from each experience, whether it was a win or a loss.

I hope that you made some mistakes…that you fought through the trial and errors to be one step closer to that extraordinary life ahead.

Cheers to the Class of 2015!

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