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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Cap and Gown List

As much as I sometimes refuse to acknowledge it, I am graduating in a matter of weeks … days, really. Time seems to go faster every hour and I’m not sure there are enough days left to do and see all the things I will miss in Davis. I think that’s a good thing, because it means I’ve found things I’m sad to leave behind.

When I first came to Davis, I was a naïve freshman who had never touched a drink, never stayed out past curfew and who caused jaws to drop any time profanity slipped out of my mouth. Looking back, I realize how little I knew and how entirely unprepared I was for the journey I was about to embark on.

Over the last four years, I have made friends, lost friends and regained friends. I’ve had roommates, moved apartments and discovered my own balance of ordered chaos. While not every moment has been sunny or happy, it’s true what they say about learning something new every day. Some things I learned from class and lecture slides, but the majority were from outside experiences.

To all graduating seniors, think back to your first day. I’d venture to say that we’re now more complete versions of ourselves. We’ve spent the last four years of college making decisions, establishing lasting relationships, challenging ourselves. In doing so, we’ve created de facto identities.

It was George Bernard Shaw who said,Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.I think George (yes, we’re on a first name basis) was right; college is the laboratory where most of this creation takes place. I think a lot of us start out with an idealistic notion that we have come to college as though one morning we’re going to wake up, look in the mirror and exclaim,There you are! I’ve been looking for you!” Ain’t gonna happen.

Every day we make choices, and those choices shape who we are. Are you kind? Are you honest? Are you true to the voices inside? Whom do you surround yourself with? Do they build you up or tear you down? Do they know when you need a virtual hug and when you need a giant tub of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food? Are you who you want to be?

Life is about creating yourself, and college is the perfect opportunity to practice that creation. There are thousands of people around you, hundreds of groups to join, hundreds of classes to choose from and an endless supply of local attractions to fill your days. It’s okay if you try something and not like it. Creating identity can benefit from process of elimination!

Incidentally, we aren’t the only ones who will emerge as new versions of ourselves. One hundred years ago, UC Davis was created as an agricultural subset of UC Berkeley, known as the University Farm School. Look around and see just how far we’ve come from where we used to be. UC Davis has grown immeasurably during its tenure. I’d venture to say when the UC regents created this institution, they could never have predicted it would be what it is today, though I’m certain they would be proud.

I’m proud to say I think I’ve made a lot out of the time I’ve spent in Davis, and I wish all the underclassmen the same success. Davis has lots to offer and it’s just waiting for you to take advantage. Take opportunities as they come. If someone asks you to go on a smoothie tour of Davis (mocha smoothie at Ciocolat should be included!), or to see if you can visit all the buildings on campus before the sun goes down, or asks you to accompany them to their lab job to put some samples in the centrifuge … GO!

You never know what’s lurking around the corner or what experience is going to stay with you long after college is done. Every day is a new opportunity to create more of yourself. So take advantage!

Before I sign off, I’d just like to say thanks to everyone at The California Aggie for letting me take thisCap and Gownjourney, and a special thanks to all those readers who indulged my literary neuroses. Writing this column definitely helped me to define more of myself, and I hope you all find something that does the same for you!

EMILY KAPLAN is still processing her upcoming graduation. Anyone who wants to remember the good old days when Pluto was a planet, the food pyramid was an actual pyramid and eight-year-olds didn’t have cell phones should e-mail her at eckaplan@ucdavis.edu. We can drink juice boxes!


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