I just talked to a reader of mine who will graduate from college this year.  She will be the first member of her family to do so.

How incredibly amazing is that?

The very first member of her family?

How proud her family must be!  I am proud of her!  Very!

Our conversation took me back to my college graduation and what it meant to me.

I was not the first to graduate from college in my family, but I probably was the biggest surprise.  I was a high school drop out who had gone through a program to get my high school diploma right before graduation. I did walk, but I was a stranger to the class and quickly got back to working.

I moved to Houston and I worked.  And worked.  And worked.

I had no plans for college and did not think I could even get in if I tried.  My grade point average was so low and my desire even lower.

I had a person enter my life in my early 20’s that said he could help me get into college despite my history.  By this time, I was tired of waiting tables and struggling to pay bills.  College seemed my only way to move forward in my life.

I filled out the paperwork, signed my name to school debt, and, with a letter to the Dean from a very esteemed Alum, was accepted into the University of Houston.

I was thrilled!

And I was ready!

For 5 years I worked, studied, met lifelong friends and learned lifelong lessons.  It was fun.  It was hard.  It was where I wanted to be.

I do not think anyone who knew me back at home really thought I would ever get a college degree.  Who could blame them?  I did not have a solid record!

But I did finish!  With a 3.24 GPA.  Earned while working for all but the last semester.

The pride I felt on graduation day still resonates with me today.  Dressed and in my cap and gown, a dress bought just for the occasion underneath, I beamed in photos that I look back upon.

I remember sitting in my folding plastic chair and looking up to see my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and dear friends looking down at me.  I waved frantically at them as I stood in line waiting for my name to be called.

When it was, the moment passes so quickly, but has lasted forever.  I switched my tassel, fought back tears, and waved at the ones who stood by me, despite my failures in the past.

Graduation.  An amazing celebration of an accomplishment that changes lives!  A walk to a new beginning.

So – to you Janie – I raise my glass!