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I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it’s a day I want to remember for the rest of my life.
Saturday, December 14, 2013 arrived in the blink of an eye. Before I could process what was happening, the end of my college career had arrived. But before I officially said goodbye to my time at Murray State, the commencement exercises and investiture ceremony took place.
My family and I woke up at the brink of dawn that morning to get ready for the day’s events. After the robing ceremony at Elizabeth Hall, it was time to head over to the CFSB Center. Despite a brief mix-up concerning parking, we arrived inside the CFSB Center with plenty of time to spare. I helped my family find seats– Brandi sat with Mamaw in the handicapped seating while Mom and Aunt Cyndy sat closer to the stadium floor– while Brittany headed off to join the orchestra.
I headed to the lower level of the arena to get my name card before joining the other shield bearers in the visitor’s locker room. When it was time to begin the ceremony, we grabbed our shields and walked out to the side of the arena. A wave of nausea came over me as I became filled with fear at the thought of thousands of eyes on me. I prayed a silent prayer to God, that He would take care of me throughout the ceremony, and I felt at peace. I took a deep breath as the provost’s assistant gently pushed me into the arena.
The walk to the stage felt incredibly long, especially because the wooden shield was extremely heavy, but I smiled and soaked up the moment. I glanced around the arena, trying to find my family and friends, but I couldn’t see them. As I headed up the ramp to the stage, I noticed my sister Brittany, the first chair of the second violins in the orchestra. For a brief moment, we caught each other’s glances and noticed her eyes filling up with tears. Unbeknownst to me, she was crying so much at the sight of me that she couldn’t even focus on playing her violin anymore and made it through the song by “fake-playing.”
As I took my seat, I noticed my family sitting a few rows over from me. By the grace of God, I was able to sit close to them for the entire ceremony. As various people made speeches (some of which were pre-recorded and shown on the JumboTron), I turned around to wave at my family.
The wait to receive my diploma felt like forever, but it went by so quickly. Surprisingly, I felt completely at peace and knew that peace was from God Himself. Before I knew it, I was standing in line, waiting to go on stage. I shook Dr. Robertson’s hand (the Vice President of Student Affairs) as he congratulated me. Then, one of the announcers took my name card and repeated my name to me, making sure that it was pronounced “Bai-ley” not “Bail-ey.” Professor Valentine, who held the robing ceremony earlier that morning, did the honors of announcing my name to the arena.
“Bailey Kay Young, summa cum laude.”
With a gentle push from the assistant announcer, I walked across the stage to Interim President Miller. We shook hands and I accepted my diploma, and he whispered congratulations and “It’s nice to see you again.” He remembered me from the tour of Oakhurst in October. I heard my mom quietly yell, “That’s my baby!” Thankfully, I wasn’t terribly embarrassed.
As I walked down the ramp, Brittany jumped up from the orchestra, leaned over the railing, and gave me a hug as she cried tears of pride. I paused for a photo in front of the flags before heading back to my seat. I walked past my mom, who was snapping photos of me from the photo line on the arena floor, and suddenly decided to stop so I could give her a quick hug. I whispered, “Love you” into her ear as she whispered, “Love you too” into mine. A knot formed in my throat as I headed back to my seat.
As we sang the alma mater, my eyes filled with tears. Although we didn’t sing the second verse, I reflected on its words: “Though we leave thy halls forever, many miles go hence, may our love for Alma Mater only have commenced.” How true they were. After the song ended, President Miller announced us graduates of Murray State University, and the baccalaureate degree candidates moved their tassels from the right side to the left.
As the orchestra played the recessional song from The Patriot, I traded places with the girl on the end of my row, so I could see my sister playing in the orchestra. The announcer announced, “Graduates, you are dismissed!” and I ran up the stairs to my mom. She squeezed me in a giant bear hug and whispered, “I’m so proud of you.” The tears that were in my eyes began to fall freely. With a smile on her face, Momma sweetly asked, “Why are you crying for?” Too choked up to reply, I just smiled at her as a million thoughts ran through my mind. I was happy to finally be finished with my undergraduate degree, but at the same time sad. I was looking forward to the next chapter in my life while already missing the old one.
Mom and I then joined the rest of my family as my friends Stephanie, Natalie, and Kelsey made their way over to where my family was. My sister Brandi handed me a dozen pink roses, remembering a comment I had made a few weeks ago about never receiving flowers in my life before. My friends hugged me and congratulated me and we reminisced about our time at Murray State before they left so I could spend more time with my family.
It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago, when I was on my first campus tour of MSU, I didn’t want to go there at all and was only visiting campus because that’s where Brittany was going for college. Britt was so sure she’d love MSU that it was the only school she applied to. My mom wanted me to choose Murray because that’s where my sister would be, and I didn’t want to choose it for that exact same reason. Later that week, when I went on campus tours of other colleges, I found myself comparing it to MSU. By December of my senior year, I had officially committed to becoming a Racer.
My first semester at Murray State was incredibly hard. I was depressed and lonely and hadn’t yet made any friends. In fact, I had already began filling out transfer applications so I could be at a college in my hometown in the spring. My mom encouraged me to stick it out through the entire year, and hesitantly, I did. As I grew more comfortable with the new life I had created for myself, MSU turned into my home. Words cannot explain how much I love Murray State, and I could write an entire book on the amazing experiences I’ve had, so I’m going to sum up this post with the words of the Alma Mater.
Though we leave thy halls forever, many miles go hence, may our love for Alma Mater only have commenced.