18 July 2018

The Proudest Day of My Life

On Friday 13th July, I graduated. 
Three years of hard work, stress and tears all lead up to one special moment and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. If you read my University Reflection post you'll know that I didn't have the best start at university. I didn't think I'd ever see graduation day but guess who did it?! I'm officially a Bachelor of Arts and I couldn't be happier. 

My graduation ceremony took place in the morning which meant that I was up at 5am trying to make myself look presentable. I can't begin to tell you how much I stressed about what I was going to wear and how I was going to do my hair and makeup. Either you suit academic dress or you don't and I was determined that I wasn't going to look like a fool (even though I probably did).

The preparations started at half past seven when I went to collect my official certificate and my academic dress. When my parents left me I was a bundle of nerves but the minute I met up with Tori and Caroline the butterflies in my stomach were soon replaced with excitement. We'd spoken about graduation day since we became friends in our first year and let me tell you, the past three years have absolutely flown by. It still doesn't feel like I've graduated. 

We signed in, collected our tickets and our official certificate, then walked down some stairs to collect our cap and gown. Then, we had to get dressed and oh my goodness, those gowns are so much heavier than they look. My cap and gown isn't the comfiest thing I've ever worn but I felt so proud to be walking around the city in it. I was graduating. I'd worked so hard for this. 

The gardens outside the University were full of soon-to-be graduates and their families taking photos, laughing and sharing such a wonderful achievement. I knew that the day was going to be emotional but nothing could have prepared me for how many times my mum cried. I spotted her stood with my dad so I walked over and shouted, 'Hi Mum.' Well, she burst into tears which in turn made me cry, I've never seen so much pride in my parent's eyes before. 

I'll be honest, I could've cried when I saw the girls in their caps and gowns. We've been together for three whole years. It doesn't seem like a long time but you'd be surprised at the bond you make. We've watched each other grow not only as writers but as human beings and I couldn't have wished to spend my time at university with better, more talented people. I can't thank them enough for everything they've done; taking me under their wing on my first day on the course, accepting my weirdness and always making sure I got back to the train station when I'd had a few too many in the Pilgrim. I wish them all the luck in the future because I know they're going to do AMAZING things. 

We joined in with everyone else and had our photos taken. I feel so proud when I look at them. We posed and laughed, all whilst I tried to clip Caroline's cap to her head so that it wouldn't fly off. I'm so thankful that it wasn't as hot as it had been earlier in the week - I'd only been in my cap and gown for ten minutes and I was already sweating. 

Then my Mum and Dad pulled me away for a moment and told me that there was someone they'd like me to meet. 

This is Bethan. 
We'd never met before, well not properly. 
We were born on the same day, in the same year and in the same hospital. Our mums were in beds next to each other and they put mine and Bethan's cots next to one another too. When my Mum would go for a shower, Bethan's mum would look after us both and vice versa. In the first few years, our mum's kept in touch and sometimes I'd hear her say that she'd bumped into Barbara and Bethan in ASDA. I heard these names all the time but I never knew who they were. 

Fast forward 21 years and Bethan and I attended the same university, graduated on the same day and at the same ceremony. Bethan in Fashion and me in Creative Writing. It's one of those things that was incredibly bizarre but made the day just that bit more special. Our mums couldn't stop taking photos of us. Apparently, the formation of the top photo is exactly what it was like in Whiston Hospital in 1997. 

We had our official photographs taken (with a weird little fake diploma) and then followed the sea of graduates and their families down Hope Street. The street was decorated with 'Congratulations Class of 2018' banners and cute little reminders of our time studying in a city we call home.

The graduation ceremony was held in the Anglican Cathedral and I feel incredibly lucky to have finished my university journey in such a beautiful building. Appropriately, a gin van was parked outside as families and friends gathered to have their photos taken. However, I opted out of having a gin - couldn't risk myself stumbling across the stage (which I was already convinced was going to happen). I chatted, hugged, laughed and cried with so many friends who all looked so amazing in their caps and gowns. I know I keep saying this but I really am proud of us all. 

Then before we knew it, it was time to go in. 
I'd say the hardest part of the whole process was trying to find my seat in the cathedral because it's a lot bigger than it looks. Thankfully, Tori and I were sat together and we soon found our seats but we were at the back, right-hand side of the hall so we didn't see much of the ceremony anyway. 

The ceremony itself was emotional but very, very long. As you'll know, you have to watch every student graduate and after a while, it becomes a little bit boring - especially when you're sat at the back and can't see a thing. In the first ten minutes, the girls and I tried to work out just what it is we had to do when we went up to collect our degree. We thought we would have been told before we went in but we had to work it out for ourselves. 

For future reference, if any of you are reading this and are yet to graduate, they read your name, you walk, shake the Chancellor's hand, shake the Vice Chancellor's hand and then walk off. 
You're welcome. 

When it was my turn to graduate, my heart was literally pumping through my chest. I'd been psyching the girls up all morning because I knew they were nervous but as always, I'm hopeless at taking my own advice. Before I knew it, I was handing my card into the woman, she read out my name and I walked across the stage. I shook the Chancellor's hand and he said, 'well done,' and then I shook the Vice Chancellor's hand but he wanted a proper chat. He asked, 'was it hard work?' to which I replied, 'yes, but so worth it.' Then, I walked down the ramp to find my tutor stood waiting to give us a hug. Plus, I DIDN'T FALL!

As I walked back to my seat, I couldn't quite believe what had just happened. I couldn't recall anything, I just did it. Thankfully Bethan's mum was sat front row and recorded the whole thing (which is pinned to the top of my Twitter profile) if you'd like to have a nosey. 

And just like that, I became a graduate. 
A Bachelor of Arts.
With Honours (you can't forget the honours!)

When the Chancellor said, 'you have all officially graduated from Liverpool John Moores University,' the girls and I burst into tears. It was over. The whole stressful, beautiful, hilarious experience was over. We'd officially graduated! We sang the national anthem and walked out in a procession onto the steps of the cathedral. My mum cried (again).

Outside the cathedral was packed full of families, friends and journalists all taking photos of us as we walked out. It was at this point that we went our seperate ways and went to spend some time with our families. My mum and dad couldn't stop giving me hugs and telling me how proud they were. I'll be honest, I was incredibly proud of myself too. 

From being young, so many people wrote me off. My English teacher at primary school told my mum that I'd never do anything because my writing wasn't good enough. In High School, my English teacher told me that I was wasting my time doing a creative writing degree. At University, a lecturer told me that I'd never be good enough to graduate. Well, here I am. 
Bachelor of Arts (with Hons) Creative Writing. 

After the ceremony, our lovely lecturers held a little party for us at our beloved Redmonds Building as one final goodbye before we left. Tori and I drank too much prosecco and it was so nice to sit and chat with each other's families. My lecturer told my parents that I'm apparently incredibly funny and I somehow made a promise that by this time next year, I'll have turned one of my short stories into a radio play (we'll soon see).

Then, we attended the Prize Giving, drank even more prosecco and found out that one of our favourite lecturers was leaving. He'll be missed but a part of us was so glad that he was leaving with us because he was one of the best. The most emotional part was saying thank you and goodbye to our tutors. They've supported us so much over the past three years and I don't think we can ever thank them enough for the constant inspiration, belief and encouragement. 
I never thought I could ever believe in myself the way I do now and it's all thanks to them. 

In the late afternoon, I returned my cap and gown and we hopped on the train home. We spent the evening at our local Mexican, Sabroso, eating delicious food and drinking a lot of gin. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. 

Overall, the day can only be described as an emotional whirlwind. It still doesn't feel like it actually happened. I have never been prouder of myself than I was when I graduated and it's a day that I'll remember for the rest of my life. I felt so special. Being able to walk across that stage to the sound of applause made everything worth it. I'd do the late nights in the library and the tearful breakdowns again in a heartbeat if it meant that I got to relive my graduation again. 

Here's to the class of 2018!

Lots of Love,


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