On the Boston Common after graduation.

I graduated again today. With my Master’s this time.

But if I’m being honest, I’m not particularly excited or proud of what I have accomplished. In fact, I don’t even really know what I’m celebrating. I went to my classes, I did the work, I had my moments when I was passionate and involved in what I was doing, and I had plenty of times when I felt like a high schooler—getting by doing the minimum amount of work; trying to care because this wasn’t just something I was forced into—it was a conscientious, career-driven choice to further my education and my future career.

Right?

Or was I just scared of the real world? Syllabi, binders, and the promise of September starts were easier to deal with mentally. And now I’m stuck with a $30,000+ tab and the assurance of future networking opportunities.

But it wasn’t a bad day. In fact, you couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to graduate: sunny, clear skies in Boston, with temperatures in the 70s. I wore a new dress that made me feel like Daisy Buchanan—white and navy blue with an empire waist and a full skirt, complete with pale pink pearl earrings and a freshly painted, blood-red pedicure shining through the peep toes of my white sandals. Youth at its freshest and most innocent. I felt radiant the whole way down the Porter Square escalators, self-aware in my moment of beauty but trying not to show it. A man going the opposite direction threw up his arms and yelled “marry me!” as we crossed paths. I laughed the blushing giggle of a schoolgirl who realizes for the first time that she is beautiful, and then turned my rosy cheeks away.

Then I remembered something that my date told me the previous Saturday night after an evening of good food, wine, and company. He told me that one of the reasons he was first attracted to me was because I was so confident in myself:

“Don’t get me wrong,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “you’re a pretty, funny, smart girl. But I hang out with a lot of smart, pretty, funny girls in New York. The thing is, deep down, most of them are insecure about themselves, whereas you’re so sure of yourself. You’re a waitress, and even though you want a real job, you don’t make excuses for that. You’re like: ‘Hey, that’s who I am. I don’t care if you don’t like it.’ But not in a cocky way. You’re just confident.”

My immediate response was: “Wow. If you had met me five years ago, or even two, you might not have said that.”

And in that instant, I knew that he was right. I am comfortable with who I am these days and what I look like. Of course, I could always be thinner. Or taller. Or my teeth could be whiter. But I feel sexy (most of the time), and I finally understand what people have been telling me for years—that I have a lot going for me. I’m a catch, if you want to boil it down.

What’s even more incredible is the fact that he noticed it. I must be exuding some kind of confident aura these days, which would explain why people keep asking me how much weight I’ve lost (not much) and telling me how good I look. I’m carrying myself differently these days—I can feel it. It may have taken 26 years, but I’m finally happy with myself.

I recently found an old column I wrote about a year and a half ago about a horrible break-up I went through and how everyone was telling me that it was time to start dating again. This is how it ended:

“At my birthday party, my friends kept making comments like, ‘Isn’t Adrienne the sweetest person you know?’ ‘She’s the greatest.’

I’m ready to start listening again.”

I may have lost my way a bit between then and now, but it feels like I’ve come full circle again. I’m ready to start my new life with an open heart and a new-found confidence.

And that is something to celebrate.

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