Happy Birthday, Jared Alan-Raymond Shely!

23 years ago today, Jared gave me the official title of BIG SISTER.  Although it was one I was excited for, I never dreamed what all it would be.  There isn't a great way to express what those two little words really mean to me.  Being Jared's big sister has been so much more than just exciting!

This past weekend, Dave and I (along with my parents, sister and her family plus grandma) ventured to Virginia for Jared's graduation... college graduation.  How did that happen? 

It seems like not that long ago we were all together for his high school graduation. 

Then earlier that year Jared announced to all of us where he'd be heading in the fall...

 and Dave and I couldn't wait to get to Washington & Lee to visit him.

So, his first weekend of college we were there to see where he'd be spending the next four years.

And just like that, those four years have passed.  How is that even possible?

Dave and I were excited to get back to Lexington (minus the drive time).  We enjoyed our time there before and love their quaint downtown.  The campus is absolutely beautiful and holds so much history.  We also planned to visit The Greenbrier for a couple of days after graduation to make the most of the holiday weekend which was was perfect!  See our adventure at the Greenbrier HERE.

We arrived a little after 9 PM the night before graduation. We had worked half days before getting on the road and the drive was every bit of eight hours.  After hanging out in the hotel lobby greeting all the fam, we headed to Jared's fraternity house to see his digs and meet some of his friends.   

The next morning we were up bright and early with graduation beginning at 10 AM.  My parents were on campus early that morning for breakfast and had scoped out great seats for everyone in the shade.  We had never been to an outdoor graduation and having seats in the shade was clutch.  

Apparently it's a thing to bring champagne to an outdoor graduation.  Who knew?  Definitely the family sitting behind us packing a whole case of it.  Yeah, they definitely knew.

We were in Lexington for about 24 hours and soaked in every second we could with the graduate.  Jared is easy going, genuine and loyal to his core.  He's also adventurous, thoughtful and extremely witty.  He's the perfect mix of all the great things!  It's been an honor to watch him grow into the person he is today.  Even Dave is pretty partial feeling like a proud big brother in-love.

Graduation was a long, beautiful two hours.  We enjoyed being there to celebrate Jared and all of the success he's worked for.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with majors in both Global History and Spanish in addition to minors in Education and Latin American & Carribean Studies.  

He's pretty dang smart, but he's also a hard worker.  #bestofbothworlds  Maybe it was all that fifth grade math I was teaching him as a kindergarten student when we played school?  I'll be happy to take a little bit of the credit for his brilliance.  Heck, I taught the kid everything I knew.

Jared was one of four students at Washington & Lee to be awarded a Fulbright Grant and will be working as an English teaching assistant at the Universidad de Boyac√° in Tunja, Colombia the year following graduation.  We are so proud, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that we are also a little sad.  It will be an adventure of his lifetime, but this big sister is hoping the year flies by.

Jared made some unbelievable friends at college and we loved putting faces with all of the names.  Friendships can come and go, but it was obvious that some of these will last a lifetime.  

They have traveled together and lived together.  They have shown up for each other and have been there through difficult times.  And, I'm sure they probably have a handful of stories of ways they've bonded over the years that their parents (and not even this big sister) would want to hear.  

After graduation and then a few days of hiking and camping together, these three are all headed in different directions, even countries.  They'll always have each other, though.  Always.  
 Cherish the moments, boys!  

We headed to the fraternity house after graduation for lunch with all of the Sigma Nu brothers and their families.  It was great being with all of the guys.  How are are they already seniors?

We had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Jared and Steven in downtown Lexington that afternoon.  At 21/22 years old, these kids boys gentleman sure are insightful.  Dave and I loved getting to feel like the cool big sister and brother that we are... HA!  Am I right? #kindofmaybe

Jared still had MAJOR packing to do, like pretty much his whole room kind of packing.  We were quick to ditch that experience.  Not because we didn't want to help, but because this big sister was already feeling all kinds of emotions.  It wouldn't have been good for anyone if we helped.

While they packed, Dave and I grabbed a drink together at Bistro On Main... and I cried.  

Then we met up with my parents, grandma and the graduate for dinner at JJ's Meat Shak in Buena Vista which is just the town over, has delicious food and is one of Jared's favorites... and I cried. 

Then we gave Jared his graduation/birthday/celebratory gift... and I cried.

Then we Dave drove to the Greenbrier... and I cried. 
I didn't even mention the goodbyes (which are THE WORST by the way)... but I cried.

See the trend?  It's a good thing we only had an hour drive and not the full eight hour drive that night.  That would have been A LOT of crying.  It wasn't all sad tears and it wasn't all happy tears.  It was a full mixture of all kinds of tears that I was crying for me, for my parents, and even for him.  

Growing up is weird.  It's beautiful and exciting and scary and frustrating and WEIRD.  When you close the page to a chapter you know is over it can be hard.  When you know that life itself will never be the same and an era is strangely coming to an end it can be hard.  When you're thrilled and proud for a once in a lifetime opportunity, but know at the same time that means you're going a full year apart it can be hard.  It can all be hard, and it WAS hard.  All that being said (and cried about), growing up is still beautiful and exciting.  Plus I know the chapters ahead will be wonderful, too. 

Without further ado... more graduation pictures!  And, I'll go cry some more.
Wishing you the happiest birthday, Jared!  Congratulations on graduating from Washington & Lee University with FOUR things listed on your degree AND congratulations on landing the adventure of a lifetime by receiving a Fulbright Grant that you worked so hard for.  CONGRATULATIONS! 

I am so proud of you.  I am proud of the old"er" person you've become and the person you've always been.  I am proud to be part of your village, we all know it takes one.  Keep chasing your dreams!

Most of all, I am thankful to be YOUR big sister and one of your best friends. 

No comments