The Brisbane air was so thick I felt like I needed to chew every breath I took. The iconic jacarandas were in full bloom, their purple plumage like amethyst gems. The sky was the aquamarine, the grass malachite, and the trees were reflected in the lakes in every hue from peridot green to emerald.
The University of Queensland was like stepping into Aladdin’s cave.
The Forgan Smith building loomed over the Great Court, a sandstone sentinel who had watched over generations of students. My heels clicked as I walked, echoing against the sandstone walls. For the last time as an undergraduate student, I circled the Great Court.
A slight breeze caused my graduation gown to billow around me, but the air was an intense heat matched only by the rush you get when you open a hot oven. I tried not to think of the make-up I had put so much effort into applying, the make-up I had long since sweated off. My hair was almost stiff with hairspray in my desperate attempt to control the humidity-induced frizziness.
Despite Brisbane’s determination that I graduate looking like a hot mess, I could not keep the smile from my face.
A mere year and a half earlier, I found myself sitting in the Great Court, fighting back tears as I realised I had no direction. The weight of my failure sat uncomfortably in my stomach as I took in the feedback given to me by my anatomy lecturer. I was not cut out for a life in the sciences. Writing the essays came naturally for me, but as for the exams… I had reeled at the fact that there was something I was not good at. I told myself that my inability to look at dead bodies in the anatomy lab was okay, that I was good at other things instead.
I had crumpled up the feedback and shoved it into the bottom of my bag, behind a notebook filled with stories. Under the shadow cast by Forgan Smith, I had felt like my world was crumbling apart, like I would never graduate university, like I was a total failure.
Now I stood tall—or as tall as my five-foot-one frame would let me—as I stared at that spot I had sat, not all that long ago, feeling at my lowest. Soon I would be a university graduate, and I had already sent in my application to start a master’s degree in writing, editing, and publishing. I finally felt like I knew what I wanted to do, where I wanted my life to go, and it didn’t need anatomy.
I finished my loop of the Great Court directly across from Forgan Smith. I laid my hand on the cool sandstone, wondering how many other students had done the same thing. The University of Queensland felt like home, like a piece of my heart would always belong to the colours and the sounds. In my heart was the scent of books in the humanities library, the song of the birds who gathered around the lakes, the cacophony of students who crowded the coffee shops, and the feel of the breeze that ruffled the jacarandas and whistled down the hallways.
I doubted I could ever properly leave, I doubted I ever would.
I was proud of my university, and I was proud of who the university let me become.
Camille Caroline, Bachelor of Arts (Peace and Conflict Analysis) (2014), Master of Writing, Editing, and Publishing (2017)