"Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."
The words that adorned my graduation mortarboard did not come from a celebrity, football legend or prominent historical figure.
Indeed, amid a sea of scarlet and gray Block O's and intricate buckeye-leaf designs, my graduation hat featured a message from an animated boy speaking to his "silly old bear."
This quote has been a constant presence through many stages of my life. It has appeared in picture frames, in collages and as a computer background on my first-ever laptop.
Now, it has appeared once again.
As I look to the future of post-graduation life, these words continue to be a fitting reminder of the importance of confidence and belief in oneself.
After preschool, I would come home and watch Pooh's Grand Adventure on VHS. I would laugh as the movie's cast of adorable animals set off through the Hundred Acre Wood in search of their friend Christopher Robin. My mom would prepare dinner while I watched the well-meaning Owl misread the word "school" as "skull." As a child who loved to read, I was puzzled as to why going to school was such a scary concept. It didn't occur to me that one day, I, too, would have to hug my stuffed animals goodbye, hop onto a yellow bus and trade playdates and make-believe for pencils and mathematics.
Many years later, the quote appeared again, this time plastered on the side of a trunk I decorated with a collage of photos and images clipped from magazines. My best friend, Emily, and I spent hours sitting out on my parents' patio, putting our masterpieces together with the hopes of creating a unique conversation piece. Listening to a playlist of our favorite songs, we chatted about high school memories and cut out colored strips of scrapbook paper, hoping our handiwork would bring a pop of personality to our freshman-year dorm rooms.
After the Mod Podge had dried and the minivan was loaded, my family and I drove to Ohio State on the morning of move-in day. Within an hour, the trunk was deposited with a heavy thud in a crowded room on the 12th floor of Taylor Tower. It would later be transformed into a TV table and makeshift pantry. Yet, the quote was still visible beneath half-empty pizza boxes as friends gathered around to watch Fight Club on our room's tiny 19-inch screen.
Several years later, it was hauled once again through the doorway of my first-ever apartment, where it was used as a coffee table during late-night study sessions. And now, it sits facing the front door of my new apartment, greeting me whenever I come home from work each day.
Christopher Robin's words are comforting as I begin my journey into the working world. I have been very lucky to have an amazing support system of family and friends who have been with me through thick and thin for the past 22 years.
Now I get to put my bravery, strength and smarts to the test, and I couldn't be more excited.
Until next time, though, as Tigger would say, it's "TTFN — ta-ta for now!"