Firsts and lasts
There is a significance about firsts: a baby’s first word, a first time flying, the first day at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. According to my mom, my first word was mov, which means food in Hmong and is probably the reason why I pursued a career in both dietetics and communication. My first time flying was to Florida in 2004 and that’s where my love for traveling began. Before I go any further, I have a confession: UWSP is not my first university, but I remember my first day. I remember feeling for the first time determination I had never felt when I attended my previous university and of course, the undeniable fear everyone has on the first day of school: going to the wrong classroom. And for the first time in my life, I felt like I had a purpose.
Although UWSP is not my first university, I have had many firsts here. In fact, being born and raised in Wisconsin, this is the first time I have been proud to wear purple and gold together. I remember my first time meeting my roommates, whom I found on Craigslist, and the fear of them being crazy killers. Though I don’t recommend finding roommates on Craigslist, these were the best roommates I had.
It is said that one in four students from UWSP studies abroad. Through UWSP, I stepped in Europe for the first time. I went to Greece and in Greece, I ate squid, octopus and artichokes for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Through UWSP, I was one of eight students that received full funding to attend the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education in New York City to represent UWSP for the first time. It was my first time in New York City and boy, did I take a big bite out of it. More importantly, it was the first time I questioned my self-identity as a woman of color.
But more significant than firsts are lasts, and I’m not just saying that because my last name starts with an X making me last in just about all of my classes. Ys and Zs, you know what I’m talking about. Lasts are a time of reflection. Reflection of the growth and achievements we have attained. Reflection of the struggles we have overcome. And even reflection of the failures we have had.
Today is the last day as a student at UWSP for many of us. Today, we reflect on the years we have spent here at UWSP, whether it was two years, three years, four years or too many years to admit. Today, we reflect on the people that have entered our lives and hope that it will be a long time until it is the last time.
So take a moment to reflect on your favorite teacher, the one who always had time for you. Reflect on that teacher you had a difficult time with, the one who taught you self-motivation and tested your potential to succeed. Reflect on that boss or those supervisors who taught you that work can be enjoyable and if it wasn’t, reflect on the motivation you had to work harder so you could get out of that place. I have to be careful what I say about work, this blog is for my former workplace. Now reflect on those who supported you. The ones that may have bought you Belts’ when you failed an exam. The ones who cheered you on when you had no motivation to continue. The ones who listened to you complain about having to pull an all-nighter to finish a project because it definitely wasn’t your fault.
Today may be the last time you see many of these people, whether they are classmates, teachers, friends or me. While you reflect, remember that “last” doesn’t mean the end. In fact, the word commencement derives from the word commence, meaning “to begin.” And to begin, according to Webster, is “to do the first part of an action.” So together we end one journey and begin another. Thank you and congratulations class of 2013!
Song Xiong is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in dietetics and communication.