Graduation, Not Goodbye

To UCLA's graduating class of 2015, I write to you with the warmest regards and the deepest respect as we say goodbye to our beloved school. As we come to the end, we seek to make sense of it all. We try to understand the growth and change we have seen in ourselves, but mostly, we try to grapple with what it means to put four phenomenal years behind us.

The best way I can try to rationalize all of this is by focusing on one simple phrase: Bruin Born, Bruin Bred. Bruins until the day we're dead. It sounds a little morbid and maybe a little cult-like, but it is one of the tried and true mottos of our amazing school. And for me, it has been my motto since day one. I am a fourth generation Bruin, with twelve men and women preceding me as graduates from this university. They have been my greatest champions and supporters, and so the day I was accepted to UCLA was the day that I fulfilled the legacy that has come to define my family for close to a century.

My great-grandmother was a founding member of her sorority, and a member of one of the first classes to graduate from the Westwood campus. My grandfather was a baseball player and a football player, and his name is engraved forever on a locker in the J.D. Morgan Center. He also met my grandmother at UCLA, and she would climb down the tree next to her bedroom window at the Delta Gamma house late at night just to see him. My mother is a Bruin, and she took it upon herself to teach me the eight-clap far before I would ever learn how to play patty cake. My Uncle is also a Bruin, and every year that we beat USC he has hundreds of little match boxes made. And on those little boxes, he has inscribed in gold lettering, the score and date of the game. In case you forgot, this year on November 22, 2014, it was USC 20 - UCLA 38. My father who is sadly a graduate of Stanford, still cannot hide his faithful devotion to UCLA. He takes a trip to the Rose Bowl every single weekend we have a home game, and he proudly cheers for the mighty Bruins. My little brother has just completed his freshman year, and he will one day be a member of the graduating class of 2018 -- assuming he remembers that he doesn't get good grades for being the best fraternity brother.

In light of my tribe's unabashed obsession with this school, you can only imagine what that has meant for daily life. For parties and events, blue solo cups are purchased; never red. If a Trojan is in the house, they won't leave feeling in any way good about themselves. And if you've ever wondered the amount of UCLA paraphernalia that is available for purchase in the world, I invite you to my home where you will find a UCLA birdhouse, UCLA dog bowls, a UCLA lawn gnome, UCLA barbecue tools and a UCLA christmas-themed football man who can stand in your yard and light up at night. Though my UCLA-crazed family might sound a little nutty, and trust me, they are just as nutty as they sound, what I'm trying to emphasize is the lasting impression that UCLA can have on all of our lives. An impression that will forever change who we are, what we do and who we become.

UCLA is this massive experience. Like a force of nature, it happens to you: impressing on you a lifetime of memories and stories that will remind you of the kind of love that lasts forever. And so that must be why it is so difficult to justify having to leave it. Having to graduate from such a glorious place.

This past week has been emotional, and scary, and wonderful, and agonizing and mostly, bizarre. Everything is the "last" or the "final" time of doing something or seeing someone. The highest highs were followed by the lowest lows, as every feeling of accomplishment came with a sense of sadness for what was and what will never be again. There have been times this week where I've found myself raising a glass to all the good times that UCLA gave to me, clinking glasses with dear friends and loved ones. And I'm going to be very honest, there have also been times where I've sat alone in my room crying as I listened to "The End of the Road" by Boyz II Men and wondering how life has lead me to this moment. Even still, somehow, someway, I am glad it has. I am so incredibly happy that my life has culminated in this week, this day and this moment.

So much has happened in the span of our time on this campus. We've all seen it, experienced it, cherished it: the pains and gains of growing up. Of meeting best friends, party friends, study friends. Of sleepless nights with the People of Powell, and sunny days lounging on Janss Steps. Of getting our first internships, jobs and graduate school acceptance letters. Of falling so deeply in love, and then maybe falling out of it. Of camping out for basketball games. Of storming the Central Ticketing Office for a chance at seeing Hillary Clinton. Of crying in the rain as we watched our favorite football team trounce those Trojans. Of learning more about ourselves than we thought possible.

We made mistakes along the way too; many, many mistakes. But it only made us better and stronger and more resilient for the future, for the now. We got rejected every now and then. We stayed out late far too often. We ate more Fat Sal's and Italian Express than any nutritionist should ever hear about. We rode home in shopping carts, and danced to bad music on sticky floors. We climbed to the top of our campus's biggest and best buildings and sat with our feet dangling over the edge of the world. We took risks. We always bet on ourselves. And we said yes more than we ever said no, because it made us feel young and and it made us feel alive. We fed our souls and nourished our minds and we are better for it.

The hardest part about leaving the best school in the world, is accepting that the end is here. It is coming to understand that college is behind us, it is no more. But the beauty of UCLA is that it has opened our world to endless possibility. There are so many good days ahead, and to have anything but hope and happiness for our futures would be a terrible mistake. Because as Bruins, our limits know no bounds.

And yet, when it comes to our time at UCLA, there will never be any real sense of completion. Not today, not ever. Because a Bruin is a Bruin forever. We come back to where we began, reminding ourselves of the motto that underlines it all: Bruin Born, Bruin Bred, Bruins 'til the day we're dead. UCLA will always be apart of me and it will always be a part of you. The UCLA experience is one that exists in the past, present and future. Memories of old will inspire all future memories you make. So yes, if you think about it, a UCLA lawn gnome might just be in your future. And one day you may have a great-grand-daughter graduate from UCLA and remember your legacy.

My fellow Bruins, this is only the beginning. Cheers to the class of 2015. We did it.