When I last left you, I was exhausted and wondering how to prepare for a graduation speech. In those few days that have since slipped away, I lived through all of the graduation festivities and moved away from Provo.

Commencement happened on Thursday when my friends and I marched in the endless parade of 2011 BYU graduates into the giant Marriot Center to be addressed by Elder Scott and to be embarrassed when we didn't stand up as the doctorate students were invited to arise (thinking, because we had been told, that the "juris" doctorate students would be recognized separately from the others). Most of the rest of the commencement is a blur. All I remember are some disruptive jokes and commentary from myself and my restless friends on either side of me while inspirational and spiritual chunks of counsel emanated from the speaker. And then it was another march to outside where we took another 12 dozen pictures to add to the 12 dozen pictures we had taken before commencement with our blood-shot tired eyes and wrinkled robes.

Thursday night we had a graduation party with piles of meat in a church gym, reliving old memories with best friends while classmates passed their babies around and took more pictures. Then it was back to Annette's office which was now full of all of our stuff that we had cleaned out of CTU and our carrels. Corey and I stayed late working on my speech. I would type for a while, read, and then Corey would tell me I did a good job but then demand that I change everything (she's getting a lot better at the "tell me I did a good job" part). It was, I knew, going to be one of the last of about 2,000 times I would have Corey flawlessly critique something I was nervous about until we worked out all the kinks. I'm going to miss that. Corey and I left around 11:00.

I didn't really set an alarm. Just woke up when I was ready to on Friday, hoping that my body would sleep as long as it needed to to rid myself of the now 4-day headache. It seemed to work. I rolled to school at about 11:00 AM to find a frantic Annette with curlers in her hair, somehow simultaneously on the phone with all of her friends who had called her to ask for details about where were supposed to be throughout the day, knowing that Annette would be the best person to call for that kind of information. I sat in her office amid the piles of personal belongings that personally belonged to about 6 different people but were starting to get so mixed up with one another's stuff that I wondered how long it would take for us to separate everything out. Sort of reminded me of our lives and how they've all grown together enough that I almost don't remember anymore which experiences are mine and which belong to my friends, in some cases.

Annette popped in and out over the next few hours, looking more put together each time, as I tried to work on my speech amid laying on the couch, sneaking barefoot into the CSO for candy, and walking across campus to visit an old history professor who I meant to visit all year but never could seem to find the time to. On the way I passed hundreds of graduates and their families out taking advantage of the sun for pictures. Finally I printed my speech off and took it into a classroom to practice giving it several times. When I came back, I found a Corey telling me to print it off again because she had gotten ahold of my laptop and made some changes. Then Annette showed up and told us it was time for more pictures outside. I put my stinky robes on once again and smiled while people I know and don't know ordered us around and told us to smile. This happened until it was time to line up for convocation.

We stood in that line for 45 minutes or so, alphabetically and sweaty. Finally we were ushered onto the stage. I sat on the front row, directly in front of the professor I've worked with and become close to over the last few years. She kicked me a few times from behind with her high heels and cracked jokes about her odd robes that oddly had long black shards of fabric hanging off of each sleeve. The curtains opened and we spoke. The lights blinded me and I couldn't really see the crowds of people and crying babies, which I thought was probably a good thing. I stood up there and cracked some awkward jokes, sometimes getting laughs from the crowd in front of me of family members, sometimes getting laughs from the crowd behind me of classmates, but usually not really both crowds at the same time. And sometimes neither crowd at all. My speech went quickly and the next thing I knew we were walking across the stage to get hooded and handed diplomas before singing "America the Beautiful" and getting sent outside while an old man, who's position I never did find out, told me I should probably get married now that I'm done with school.

Outside 2,000 people stood around and hugged, took pictures, and chatted, slowly slipping away to their cars for dinner plans until there were only a dozen or so left. I left with my family and had dinner with them in American Fork. Somehow after the dinner I got so lost trying to drive back to Provo that I ended up on the west side of Utah Lake (and if you aren't familiar with the valley, just trust me--this is shockingly, terribly, and almost unbelievably lost and out of the way). I didn't realize this until I looked East and saw the "Y" lit up on the side of the mountain. It looked like I was looking down from space. And there was a large dark mass between me and the rest of Provo, which I knew had to be the giant lake. So I turned around and drove back, wondering how 6 years of residence did not prevent that from happening. Oh well.

I stopped back by Annette's office on the way home to pick up some clothes and books I had left there. The building was dark and quiet and didn't seem like the place that I had had so many laughs and anti-laughs for three years. Instead it just seemed like the base for our graduation festivities. I can't really explain it. It just sort of took on a new persona (that building always had a persona to me) and it wasn't the one that it had consistently been for so long. So wondering when the nostalgia would boot out the celebration frenzy, I flipped off the light and headed out with a pile of what was probably mostly my stuff.

As I packed everything I own into my and Krishelle's cars yesterday, stopping one more time by the school to find Annette cleaning out her office, or attempting to, I thought about what it was that I really gained from this whole experience. An education and a degree--that's obvious. But it feels like I care much more about this thing than the generic understanding of what an education and a degree would produce. A new sense of belonging? Unprecedented confidence? A second family? Direction? Comprehension of true dedication? Perspective? An almost unlimited supply of new strange experiences to draw from? I'm sure it's all of those things, and something bigger that I can't really seem to wrap my mind or vocabulary around. I just know that whatever it is I gained, it's something that I don't think I would trade for anything. It's something that manifests itself through encouraging emails from classmates sent from opposite sides of the world when second semester grades come out. Through late nights in a professor's office to clean up an article, not feeling so tedious or boring because the sense of accomplishment and teamwork from focused friends relentlessly continues past midnight. Through the calm sense that slack will be picked up without complaint by consistent back-scratchers after desperately trying not to leave any slack in the first place. I don't want to forget any of it. But even if I do, it all still happened, and forgetting any of it can't change the fact that I'm different because of it.

So long days of picturing the law building when someone talks about home. Farewell naps at my carrel and trips across campus to buy chocolate with a good friend when naps and chocolate are needed for coping with competitive stress. Good bye late night competitions, frantic brief writing, crackers and cheese on Fridays, Halloween parades with homemade costumes, awkward professor run-ins in bathrooms and stairwells, lunch on the grass, weekend runs in the canyon, wraps, pre-5k trash-talking, taking 25 minutes to get anywhere because of the great friends lining the path, embarrassing unintentional emails, study room pot-lucks, finger-pointing, arguing, waiting for competition results emails late at night in the basement with best friends, summer reunion barbeque's, fighting about accurate recollections of memories, and laughing endlessly over jokes that never get old, even if some won't admit it.

Onto the next chapter, or book, or page---however that metaphor goes. Here's to hoping for a bright future lit by the luminous bon-fire that now sits in the past, showing the best ways for life to Just Get Stranger~