And Yes I Was Present for the First Day of School and Grad-u-a-tion
It was all of two weeks ago, but I remember it like it was more like a week or so ago. On April 22nd, I graduated from college, a mere seven years after high school.
To be honest, I hadn't anticipated the actual graduation ceremony at all. If I did think about it, it was primarily to wonder what I should wear - my wardrobe has been decimated. I guess I just figured that it would be the same as the others, only I'd have a different seat.
Once I woke up, my first goal was to find my parents. They were doing a hit-and-run. Take a red-eye the night before, speed off to Columbus immediately after graduation to catch their flight back. No fuss, no muss. They didn't answer their phone when I called, and my phone ran out of batteries. Fortunately, it's a small campus and they saw me on my way to breakfast. It was raining. A random guy from the Physical Plant clapped me on the shoulder and told me that it was only the fourth time in 40 years that graduation had been rained out. I gave my parents the fifteen minute tour of campus, only my feet hurt from the Senior Party and still trying to break in my shoes and we were out of time, so it turned into the five minute tour. "That architectural monstrosity is Spalt, I used to live there. There's a building over there designed by the guy who did the St. Louis Gateway Arch, but it's boring. Behind it is the Glen, which is pretty. Hey, time to get in line!"
I went into the main building basement to get in line with the rest of the grads. By then, I was starting to feel that it wasn't just another ceremony, cliche as it sounds. You kind of get forced into it. Putting all 60 or so of the walkers together, and then making them wait for what seemed like ages forced a kind of buzz and excitement to build. Then they called us in. And we stopped. And walked in again. And stopped again. And finally managed to walk into the Kelly Hall auditorium. And suddenly, it was special.
Normally, graduation takes place in what is basically a field next to some buildings. There's a little bit of an arena feeling, but not much. On the other hand, walking into Kelly Hall, in the middle of all the graduates, with everyone in the place clapping and screaming, was absolutely electric. The closest analogy I can think of are large sporting events, with tunnels that the players enter the arena from. But those are competitive, they have a different vibe. This was joy. It was the first time I choked up, and the primary memory I take from the ceremony.
Then there was the clapping. Clapping for every little speech. Every little decent point within the speech. And every person who got called, and walked slowly up to the podium to grab their degree. When it was my turn, I wondered what to do. I could pretend to trip. One of my friends was in the aisle near the graduates, but she left before I could embarrass her with my plans. My feet were killing me. I thought of taking my shoes off and skating across the hardwood stage. In retrospect, that would have been kind of amazing. I eventually decided to just walk, very slowly. Of course, I was excited, so I was doing an excited walk very slowly, which probably just looked normal.
When I walked up, there were loud, male cheers. As far as I could tell, I was the only one who got the masculine cheering section. It kind of made sense. I had attached myself to a group of nerdy fellows, who were sitting close enough to be heard easily. After I grabbed the degree and went back into the pile of graduates, I checked the time. Almost time for my parents to jet. I waded through the fire hazards sitting in the aisle to say goodbye to them. Happily, my friends were sitting in that same aisle, so I could high five them as I walked. One of them, loudly, said "Hey, poker tonight, Rowan?" My mom was standing and sobbing. I gave her a long hug. My dad was sitting. I hugged him too. Then I went back to my place...and resumed clapping.