I have been stretching myself pretty thin for about a month and tonight, it caught up with me and bit me in the tail. Between launching projects at the new job, the fundraising for Leukemia Society, the mothering, the blogging, the board presiding, the pool vacuuming, the home construction projects, the feeding of the children and the balancing of budgets and setting up play dates and remembering to wash my hair…I am OUT.
Tomorrow at 11:ish, I get to don academic regalia in the Burden Parlor at Wesleyan College, along with the President of the College, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, the Provost, the college Chaplain, the President of the senior class and the President of Student Government. I am the President of the Alumnae Association. I love it. I love love love love love this convocation. Fall convocation, the formal beginning of the school year at the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women. We started in 1836 and haven’t missed a year since.
We will line up in a double column according to the instructions pinned to either side of the wide doors. A Junior Marshall will nervously guide us out the lobby and down the steps of the Porter Building, where we will link up with the grander procession. We will fall in with the faculty, who walk draped in the velvet and satin they have earned through decades of study. We will walk between the senior class in their new black robes and plain mortar boards. We will be led by 30 students from 30 different countries who carry the flags of their homelands.
The Candler organ will make the air shake with joy. We will march down the aisles, through the crowds of first years, sophomores, juniors. We will take the stage and stand as the seniors file in and take their seats. A fanfare from the organ and the ceremony will begin.
And in those first few minutes, I’m supposed to stand up and say a few words–bring greetings on behalf of the 8000 alumnae who have gone before this senior class. And I. Got. Nuthin.
Last year, I realized during my drive down there that I had written a speech with lots of references to the WRONG class. The seniors were Red Pirates and I thought they were Golden Hearts (I can’t even begin to explain right now). So I improvised a little talk about “ships” like scholarships and internships and fellowship. It was PERFECT. This year’s senior class is a Purple Knight class–my own class! I know their traditions inside and out. I know the words to the song, the rowdiest of cheers, the hand signals.
But inspiring words? Nuthin.
So tonight I was in a swivet. A tizzy. A kerfuffle. And it was just making my panic worse.
Then I remembered a piece of advice from my friend, Jean. “Do the next right thing.”
I don’t have to figure it all out at once. Just do the next right thing. I can’t sit here and know that everything will go perfectly tomorrow. I can’t nail it down. But I can do the next right thing.
And that right thing is going to bed.
I’m going to bed with that phrase in my head, and I’ll think of something to tell those young women tomorrow morning. I’ll see my friend, Virginia, in her professor robes. I’ll see my friend, Auburn, at her first formal convocation. I’ll see Annabel and Parrish and Lauren and Cathy and Ruth and Vivia and Susan and I will remember that I am one of them. I am a Wesleyanne.
College didn’t teach me how to do everything. It taught me how to discern the right thing. It taught me how to dare. It taught me how to improvise. Wesleyan taught me to believe in myself back then and it reminds me to believe in myself now every time I step on the campus.
So I’m going to rest and tomorrow I will do the next right thing.