The graduate

4:09pm on a Monday. I'm sitting on my aunt Rosemary's white shag rug listening to my new Cher record. "Bang, bang, he shot me down. Bang, bang, I hit the ground." I bought a Crosley record player as a graduation present to myself, and I haven't turned it off since.

I have been a very neglectful blogger.

In such a fast moving and life changing last few weeks, I've lost track of all time. But here I am now to share the great accomplishments I have had recently, and to announce that I will now be making a blog update every day of the week for these next few months. I think it's helpful for the creative mind to have a place of release, and it also gives me a daily task to remind me that I'm not on vacation. Not all will be lengthy and vastly informational, but each will have a point. 

Moving along...

February 28th, 2014; the last few days of February, my late older brothers birthday, the day of my college graduation. 


My Feb. 28th morning began at 6am. While curling my hair, I found a few gray strands. I paused and sighed and thought of how old I felt I had become in the past ten months. The stress, commitment and exhaustion I had experienced was unlike any other time in my life. Pulling up to the school I realized it would be the last time I would do so for what could be a very long time. I swallowed hard, and smiled. Today was what we had waited for, what I had worked for, and I couldn't wait. 

Rich Barnes began our ceremony, making jokes and brightening the room per ususal. We listened to Lisa Robinson, who had become like my mother away from home, address our class and praise our accomplishments. Our guest speaker was Simon Alexander- the same man that was on the panel at our final review. He made one of the most eloquent and moving speeches I've heard thus far in my life. Simon touched on several points; to stay driven, to love what we do, that life happens in the blink of an eye.

Then something incredible happened. 

In the midst of Simon's speech, he tied in a quote by Dr. Susses...

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who'll decide where to go."

Suddenly I was thrown back to a month prior, sitting in my grandmothers basement. You see that's where my uncle Donnie lived, before he took his life this last winter. I was sitting there with his son and my closest cousin, Little Donny. I was on my second leave of absence and was ready to drop out of Hallmark. Worn down, worn out, and hopeless.

We were rifling through little post it notes and stacks of paper. I was thumbing through a leather bound journal I had stumbled upon when a page with few words written in dark marker jumped out at me. I found them so touching, so fitting for where I was and what was happening.

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who'll decide where to go."

I'm back at my graduation now. Eyes swelling with tears.

Mr. Alexander takes a seat, and soon after we are presented with our certificates. My heart is full of pride. So close to giving up and here I finally was. I couldn't remember the last time I had smiled so genuinely and persistently. 

Next, we move on to the individual awards. There are three plaques and one trophy catching glints of light on either side of the podium. First awarded is my classmate Dean Tocio for his academic excellence. Dean is quiet, grounded and talented- I'm more than thrilled for his recognition.

Next to present an award is Gregory Heisler. We have all come to know Greg as a teacher, and a friend. He is presenting the award for Portfolio of Highest Excellence, which is the trophy everyone has been eyeing since being seated at the beginning of the ceremony. He says some wonderful things about what is about to be awarded, that it isn't just the "best" Hallmark portfolio, but a professional portfolio ten years beyond its maturity. We all listen attentively to his presentation, my eyes drift to my peers and we all smile at each other anxiously, 

"Let's see who this goes to... Oh, it's Emily Rose Darrow!"

Shock. Pause. Sobbing. 

I tried to come to my feet, and had to latch on to my teacher Tony Downer, just to make it up the stairs to the stage. I hugged Greg fiercely and clutched my trophy to my side. Was this happening? Months of doubt, months of fighting, months of no sleep, months of sickness, months of feelings like quitting, months of loneliness, months of loss, yet here I was. Many embraces followed as I existed the stage before I met my father again on solid ground- he was sobbing too. He held me tight and told me that I was better than any academy award that he could have ever had. My heart was so full and words couldn't form, so I just kept squeezing back.


Next were three awards for three students in the top 10% of our class. They called up Steven Turner, Jason Frank and Jessica Reilly. If I could have hand picked who deserved those awards the most, I would have done nothing different. Up there stood three individuals that sculpted my time at Hallmark, and the person and artist I am today. Proud couldn't even begin to describe the overwhelming feeling in my chest. 

All of the sudden, just 30 hours later, my apartment was packed, the goodbyes had been said, and I was on my way back to where I started. 

I am now back in Michigan, and there have been new life developments daily- but for now, I'm taking a deep breath. Who knows where I will end up next, but for now I'm trying to enjoy the sunshine and a good record. Because you know what? It all happens in just a blink.