“For the mountains may move and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
– Isaiah 54:10
My feelings about returning to the University of the Cumberlands for commencement were mixed at best. It was a fun time, and great to see family and professors and all that, but there was a bit of pointlessness behind all of the pomp and circumstance. After all, Caleb and I have already had our diplomas for nearly five months, were are both employed in exactly the areas were wanted to be employed in doing things that we love, and we have moved to another state. As cool as the ceremony was, there was a distinct feeling that we were beyond it before it began, and our excitement was not the electric pulse that seemed to course through the May graduates.
The real feeling I had while at UC was a sense of final goodbye. When we left in December, it was sad in a way, but mostly just exciting. We knew we’d be coming back for ceremonies. Instead of goodbyes, we said “See you in April’s.” In April, it felt weird to come back and realize life in the ‘burg had continued on as normal without us. I thought of other seniors I had known who left while I remained, and knew that just as life had not changed for me then, no one’s life had changed for them now. It was great to see old co-workers and professors, but once again instead of goodbye it was “See you in May.”
That May trip has come and gone, now, and at the end of it we had to truly say goodbye. For the first time in my life, I left UC without having even an idea of when I might return – much less with the knowledge of the exact date of my arrival back on campus as I have almost always had in the past. This uncertainty led to my first true “goodbye” to UC – not see you in the spring, have a great summer, don’t have too much fun over break. Those English classrooms, so much learned within them; those sidewalks, so many conversations they overheard; those mountains, so many adventures they have given me, but so many more they still hold. On my next trip, all might be entirely changed. The girl I was when I learned those things, talked to those sidewalks, adventured in those mountains – she’ll be gone too.
For the first time I feel I know what it’s like to truly leave a place, a place that has sheltered and fed and given life to me. I will miss you Appalachia. Now let’s see what I will be when I do return.