I never attended my college graduation.

I was a 2020 COVID Grad, and no, I’m not going to bore you with the sob story of missing out on that part of life.

I wouldn’t say my college career had a traditional sense of closure. However, this past weekend, four years later, I finally attended graduation. It probably provided more closure than I would have felt if I was clothed in the cap and gown myself.

I was there to cheer on my brother-in-law as he crossed the stage at my alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill.

I must admit, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of attending two separate two-hour graduations. Having already sat through ceremonies before, I was well aware that graduations can be lengthy and often quite tedious. But this one defied expectations entirely, thanks to the captivating business commencement speaker, Mary Laci Motley. I could write a separate piece just on that.

As I sat in the bleachers, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in one of those seats four years ago. My mind drifted back to what I was thinking then. Graduation meant moving to Florida in a few short months, turning professional in golf, and chasing my dream.

In a way that was both naive and beautiful, my vision was limited to those immediate months ahead. Sure, somewhere in the back of my mind were blurry dreams of getting engaged to my college sweetheart, our future wedding, building a life together, and being there for my siblings’ milestones too.

But to 22-year-old Brynn, those dreams felt galaxies away. My focus was laser-sharp on those post-graduation months, on the reality of living my dream.

Fast forward to me, four years later, sitting in the bleachers, now gazing upon the graduating class of 2024.

Yes, I pursued my dream of moving to Florida, playing on the Epson and LPGA tours. The road wasn’t without its detours and disappointments, things my wide-eyed college self could never have predicted.

More importantly, there were experiences that unfolded, entirely outside my limited 2020 vision, experiences that now hold far greater significance than the novelties I was once fixated on.

Just about a year after graduation, I got engaged to my college sweetheart, Trevor. A year later, we were married and on the honeymoon we’d both dreamt about throughout college.

Since then, the last year and a half has been a whirlwind of learning to navigate life together, the most joyful and fulfilling journey I’ve embarked on so far.

Now, we’re planning for the future, making decisions that seem monumental in the moment, just like choosing my first post-grad apartment once kept me up at night.

Gazing out at the grads, ignoring the ache in my back from bleacher seats, a question kept gnawing at me: what advice would I give to Brynn back then?

A few days later, the answer arrived.

On a bittersweet occasion like this, it’s easy to dwell on the sadness of what’s left behind, neglecting the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.

Life speeds by. That’s the exhilarating part! Learn to savor the ride. You’ll always find amazing, unexpected moments waiting just around the next bend in the road.

Cherish the ordinary joys, from that first morning coffee to quiet nights in your studio apartment, even if it’s the sixth time you’re watching the same episode of Friends. There’s beauty and growth to be found in those simple moments, too.

Lastly, never let that spark of hope in your heart dim. Keep believing that the best is yet to come. Keep dreaming.

And, congratulations to the class of 2024!

The Good Stuff

I mentioned the remarkable commencement speech delivered by Mary Laci Motley at the 2024 Kenan-Flagler Business School Commencement. I could summarize it, but that would be a disservice. I promise, it’s worth 15 minutes to listen to it yourself. Mary graduated from UNC in 2021 and has since earned a place in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for founding Eats 2 Seats.