“We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”
-The Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who
On Sunday I turned the final page on one of the most important chapters of my life: college.
And as I sit here, my fingers are itching to type every cliche imaginable. I mean, I already started with a Doctor Who quote, which is about as much of a cliched “Breeze thing” that I could do.
I want to write that college was a dream, it changed me, it was the best four years of my life, I made irreplaceable friendships and memories to last a lifetime, and when I die I’m a Tar Heel dead.
And all of those things are true. But that’s ignoring a lot of other truths.
That at times, college was stressful and lonely. That freshman year I considered transferring more than once. That not every professor was John Keating and some classes did feel like a waste of time. That I made mistakes and spent even more time wasting time because I was too afraid of making mistakes.
But in the end, my story was a good one. It was one of trials and triumph. And as I was reminded yesterday, it was one of fate.
I was brought to UNC five years ago as a rising high school senior for the Chuck Stone Program. I’ve written about the program and the man before.
Yet I’m still amazed how the legacy of a man who I only met once continues to change my life. That program gave me friends and a family away from home. It inspired me to take a career path to tell stories to advocate for others.
And as I sat in Carmichael Arena listening to the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication Commencement speaker Barb Lee talk, I knew he was in the room with us. You see, she knew him as well. And as a documentary filmmaker, she carries on his legacy of storytelling. In her commencement speech she gave us a mission, one that I’m very familiar with:
“There are stories to tell. There is work to do…But in order to tell these stories and in order to take these responsibilities…they’re going to have to employ another very important J-school value. And that’s to be courageous. Every day.”
In the end, there are a lot of ways I could describe my Carolina experience. I am, after all, a storyteller.
But the truth of the matter is this:
Graduation is not the end of the story. It’s just the beginning.