Jennifer Gabrielle ’06
This is the
first in a series of essays by Gabrielle, an intern writer
in the Office of College Relations, on being a Smith senior
The first senior
reality check arrived at the beginning of the spring semester
in my mailbox. It was a form regarding graduation credit requirements.
I fully admit to a moment of panic in which I questioned whether
I had actually completed my degree requirements. What if I
had miscalculated somewhere along the way? The thought of
not graduating on time was terrifying.
Then again, the
thought of graduating at all often has the same effect.
I approach graduation
with a rush of terror and a flash of excitement, beneath which
lurks a feeling of outright dread. I imagine it’s how
you’d approach the tattoo parlor after four years of
deliberating on a design, wondering whether you’re really
ready for such a commitment. It is permanent, after all. There’s
no turning back.
Soon, I will be branded with my very own B.A. It’s safe
to say earning a diploma is at least slightly less painful
than having a needle jabbed repeatedly into your flesh, but
in both cases there must be a sense of pride and accomplishment
upon coming out the other side –- alive. Both the diploma
and the tattoo also represent a rite of passage and something
to brand you for the rest of your life.
Some days, though,
a tattoo seems less daunting.
The second major moment for me was a little thing called “academic
regalia” -- that is, caps and gowns. Trying on my regalia
brought me back to my senior year of high school and simultaneously
propelled me forward to Sunday, May 21, the date that looms
like a tattoo artist over a bicep. I felt silly, yet grown
up: I was a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s
nightgown, and a collegiate scholar making her debut in the
Real World -- not the MTV reality show, but my new life as
Rally Day offered a way to mix these two images as the seniors
gathered in Sage Hall in their gowns and ridiculous hats.
One girl wore a hat approximately the size of a small wading
pool; another had a Nemo-like fish strapped to her head. For
me, Rally Day was just a get-out-of-class-free card and a
chance to take pictures with my friends in our funny outfits.
I wasn’t expecting to get anything out of the ceremony
itself, and, frankly, I had mixed feelings about the whole
event. While I enjoyed hearing about the staff members, professors,
and alumnae who received awards that afternoon, I found it
hard to feel like we were doing something important enough
to require a cap and gown when there was a girl in front of
me with a fish on her head.
Needless to say,
I was surprised when, at the very end of the panel discussion,
Julia Bolz ’83 said something I will never forget: “The
world needs you.” I will remember these words not because
they make a powerful statement, but because they made me realize
how highly the College thinks of its students and how much
they want for us beyond its doors. A statement of this magnitude
could be overwhelming, but with everything it has to offer,
Smith does its best to prepare and encourage us for the tasks
that lie ahead.
Being a part of
this legacy is more exhilarating than auditioning for the
Real World with a fish strapped to your head. (Or so I’ve
heard.) It is the flash of excitement I feel as I anticipate
my post-diploma life; it is the thrill of a beautiful new
tattoo and the comfort of a friend who’s there to squeeze
your hand and say, “You can do this.”
And I can. Facing
the needle seems such a small obstacle now, knowing the world
needs me. Besides, I’ve heard Smith looks good on a
resumé; I bet it’d look great on my bicep.