I know, I know, I sound ridiculous. But think about it. My entire life has been about school. From age four to last week school has been an all-consuming obsession. I've never gone more than two months without attending school. And my fiance has never known me when I was not stressing out about something related to graduate school. School
When I was in tenth grade I realized that I had a knack for history. Ever since I was a child my dad told me stories and read books to me, introducing me to two very important world, that of literature and that of history. He read to me not only the classics, but long forgotten books of his own childhood, some written by members of our own family. I love a good book, but I quickly realized that what I really love is uncovering fantastic stories that were actually true. By middle school I had read the entire children's biography section at my local library (which is surprisingly extensive) and had moved on to more advanced material. In sixth grade I was assigned a biographical essay on Aristotle that involved digging through the card catalog for hours on end. On that fateful day when my teacher (who would leave our school soon after to go pursue his own masters degree) assigned our first book review I went home and asked my father for suggestions. A year later I was in need of another historical text, which he supplied with The Devil in the White City. I received the history award for the second time that year and decided that not only would I be majoring in history in college, but I would go to graduate school.
In college I was almost derailed by the kind of life events that every young adult must face, but I survived and thrived in an environment that supported my love of research and telling stories. I met two amazing women, Dr. R and Dr. S, my English and History professors, who made such a big impact on my studies that they drove two hours to attend my graduation. They became not only my mentors, but also my friends, and I found great support for my goals through my academic departments. Three years after the start of college I graduated, moved to the coast, and started grad school, immersed in a new library and finding new ways to tell the stories I uncovered in archives and library repositories. I found new friends who were just as passionate as me, new mentors who would push me until I would reach my breaking point and then finally break through to new understandings, new students who would challenge my patience and make me realize why I love what I do, and new stories to share with those around me.
So, you see, this graduation isn't just the end of grad school, it's the end of 17 years of work, pushing myself to get to this point. My thesis is not just the culmination of my own achievements, but has been my chance to tell a truly unique story that had been largely overlooked. It is a connection between me and all of the storytellers that have come before and will follow me. And when our department chair asked us to look around at the people who had supported us through this process, I saw my dad and started to cry, because this was just as much a culmination of his legacy (and tons of my mom's patience) as it has been my effort.
I have no idea where I go from here professionally, but I am determined to keep finding ways to tell new stories as well as the old ones I love so much, even if it is just right here in my little corner of the internet.