Graduation Blues (and whites)…

27 03 2008

Tomorrow, the seniors graduate, never again to set foot in our school as students. There time is up, their number has been called, and we’re all in the waiting room wondering what life will be like afterwards.

I’ll be one of the hosts at the ceremonies tomorrow – the regular host sprained her ankle and is having a ball hopping around on one foot – so this morning I got up early (an increasingly rare occurance now that summer is here) and went to the baccalaureate service – my first (I ditched my own baccalaureate service back in high school).

Food was my primary concern…and coffee…but once those needs were sated, it was hard to not grow wistful as the knowledge slowly sunk in: for many of these young ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow will be the last time I will ever see them again.

It made me realize that the last time I saw many of my own high school classmates was during our graduation. The names are becoming hard to recall without the aid of our yearbook: Nellibeth, Liezel, Mae, Donnalee, Adonis, Mark, Jack, Joseph, Cherry, Chat…

College graduations, as the seniors will discover someday, are much less personal – unless your college has a graduating batch of about 10, there are no personalized messages, no graduation song…in fact, they would be fortunate if they graduated with the same batch of people they first enrolled with. Not to mention the fact that simply graduating is a miracle in itself – I still shake my head in disbelief when I look back on my own graduation. It just seemed so…unlikely.

With a thesis that just wouldn’t die and a wretched PE exam gone wrong, I had already resigned myself to not being able to march. Then word came along that the college would allow students with minor deficiencies (i.e. lack of 3 PE units) to participate in the ceremonies. I petitioned, and couldn’t believe it when the college dean approved it. I remember a general feeling of dizzines and confusion as I went about paying the graduation fees, procuring a robe and mortarboard, and looking up our schedule. After 5 gruelling years, I would finally march!

There was a hitch – a very big one. No one in my family would be able to attend the rites. They lived too far away. I cannot begin to tell you how much that truly, deeply, sucked.

The morning of my graduation, I got dressed and got my things together in complete silence – none of my housemates were up, and because things had been so crazy leading up to graduation, I wasn’t able to tell any of them that I was graduating. Imagine the feeling when I got to the university theatre and a batchmate of mine was complaining that his parents were so excited by his graduation, they were up and ready to go at 4am (the graduation was at 9).

Right up until the moment my name was called, I had this crippling fear that the dean had just been pulling my leg and wasn’t really going to let me march. I mean, I could see my name on the list…I just couldn’t believe it was there! But once I was on that stage, switching the tassle on my mortarboard, shaking hands with the dean and the department chairpersons, another, equally crippling feeling overtook me – there was nobody in that audience who had been eagerly awaiting that day with me for the past half-decade. Two friends of mine were gracious enough to pose as family…but their presence did little to silence the storm in my head. To Nellie and Uncle Napoleon, I am eternally grateful that you went and cheered me on from the balcony…I just hope you understand that more than anything, I wanted my family there.

It would be many years later when the nightmares finally stopped, but I still get depressed when I remember standing on that stage, dummy diploma in hand, looking out into that crowd…and feeling utterly alone.

I doubt such a thing will happen tomorrow to any of the graduating students – it’s too early for them to experience heartbreak on that level; it just wouldn’t be right. I just hope they will find joy in the proceedings and years from now, remember that they were joyful – and that despite all of our stern (and sometimes hurtful) words and actions as teachers, they were loved.

So to my graduating students: the days are dark and they will only grow darker – some of you might not make it to the morning on the other side, despite our best efforts. Since the possibility of some of us never seeing each other again in this lifetime (and maybe even the next)  is quite real, allow me to say that I will always remember you as you are today – intelligent and inquisitive, wide-eyed with wonder and enviably innocent – before the world swallows you up to sift you like wheat as it has done to generations preceding you. And I do declare that it will be an honor and one of the proudest moments of my life to stand before you…

…one last time.




3 responses

27 03 2008
violist #3


28 03 2008

Is that a good “GAHHH” or a bad “GAHHH”?

No, wait…knowing you…it’s a bit of both. Hehe.

Happy Graduation, Nikki 🙂

30 03 2008

sir eigen! i will still see you! it was not the last! 🙂 again, thank you!

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