It has been exactly one year since I graduated from the University of Sydney. I remember the sky that day – how it was so blue, how the sun felt so warm against my black gown and cap, how everything was so bright I had to squint in all the photos that were taken that day. Despite the fact my eyes are half-closed in most pictures, I still love looking at them and remembering that day. Not because the Sydney skyline and sandstone buildings look so beautiful in the background (although they do), but because my smile is so wide. I am so happy in those photos. I am almost as bright as that sky.
There is one photo of myself and three friends standing arm in arm under the sandstone arch of the Great Hall. I’m grinning down at the sunflowers they’ve just given me; they’re laughing. The lawns of the university sprawl out behind us, dotted with other people. Some of them are graduates like me (I can tell because they are robed in black and their arms are full of flowers and teddy bears), but most of them are still students, sitting on the lawns reading their books and watching us.
This is my favourite part of the photo. It’s true that these students are barely visible in this picture – tiny dots, just blurs in the background. But when I look at this photo, I know what they’re doing. They’re doing exactly what I did for the three years of my degree: lounging on the lawn with open books, letting the sun play across their faces, and enjoying the warm Sydney weather while they study.
So when I look at this photo and I see how wide my smile is, I know that it’s not just because of the graduation ceremony or the sunflowers I’m holding. It is also because of all the days, months and years that stretched behind me on that day, and all the day still stretched in front of these students in the background of my picture. The warm days. The sunny days. The happy days that were so rich, so full and so bright; the days I spent making friends and studying my favourite subjects. Even now, three hundred and sixty-five days later, I still look back on that photo and it all floods back. I remember the sun on my skin and the smell of the grass in Spring, and I smile – and my smile is just as wide as it was on graduation day.