The Polyester Rite of Passage

It finally happened. I graduated. I can officially say it now. I’ve got the paper and everything. So, why don’t I feel any different?

You know what? That’s a lie. I do feel different. I feel as though I’ve been hit by a train. It’s something about big glamorized ceremonies that makes my hair curl and not in the cute way. I completely understand how important graduation (or “commencement” I guess) ceremonies are. It’s a tremendous accomplishment that not everybody has the privilege to achieve. I firmly hold that anybody who manages to meet the extraordinarily arduous (and sometimes legitimately challenging) requirements for any diploma should be recognized and presented proudly to their friends and family. I don’t intend to belittle the importance of graduation. I intend to explain why I never felt particularly inclined to bask in all its glory.

First of all, it took me eight fucking years (including a three year hiatus) to complete what is normally determined to take four years. Now, I know that’s a superficial reason to reject pride. Most people don’t complete a four year degree in four years. But at this point, I’m nearly 28 years old. I’m not personally proud of changing my major three times before deciding that what I really need is a Bachelor of Arts in English. I respect the English major and I know a lot of people who also respect the English major. That being said, I know more people who don’t respect the English major. You know the stereotype because you’ve heard it a million times. The tale of the English major who spent four years studying Charles Dickens so they can properly craft a Grande White Chocolate Mocha in their professional life. It doesn’t offend me because I get it. In an STEM world, the humanities are cast aside to make room for more useful things like vaccines and renewable energy. It makes sense, doesn’t it? What people don’t realize is the humanities are responsible for getting us where we are technologically. I won’t get into all that boring history today, but I will find the time to tell you all about it. We’ve got all the blogging time in the world. My point is, not many people care about a BA in English. Why should I celebrate my triumph with a bunch of people who don’t give a shit? The answer is, because there is a handful of people who do give a shit. The aforementioned family and friends? The graduation ceremony is for them, not for me. It took a surprisingly long time for me to come to terms with that, but I eventually found inner peace.

Okay. It took me forever to graduate. So what? Well. That’s the other thing. Graduation doesn’t mean much to me because I’m already over 1/3 of the way finished with my Master’s degree and I’m pretty much barreling straight into the rest of it after this. The BA is a checkpoint. Checkpoints are cause for a little celebratory jig, but do I really need a whole musical number? What if Sonic the Hedgehog came to a screeching halt every time he hit one of those checkpoint diddlybobs because Tails and Knuckles strongly believe it warrants a fucking coronation? I know it’s not the same thing, but that’s how it feels. Even if I tragically drown trying to retrieve golden rings from the bottom of a lake, I don’t get to go back to my graduation and try again. I’ll just stay dead. In that regard, graduation isn’t so much a checkpoint as much as it is a very loud and brightly lit roundabout.

In all seriousness though, I honestly hoped to do the ceremonial walk once and for all when I complete the requirements for my MA. I felt that it would be pretty redundant to go through all that hassle for something that I can do in just one more year with far more dignity and self-importance if people were willing to wait. If I’m extremely fortunate and receive an enthusiastic acceptance into a reputable Ph.D. program, I will even do it again! Ph.D. graduation is far more interesting than regular graduation anyway. Each Ph.D. recipient is individually recognized and presented to the audience (none of this marching onto the stage like a herd of cattle and having names hurriedly called out from a long list bullshit) and an elaborate hooding ritual takes place. Now that’s a tassel worth the hassle. Even if you don’t get a job in academia, people have to call you “Doctor” and you have the express license to be as much of an ass about it as you’d like. In a perfect world, that would be my one and only graduation.

It’s not a perfect world, though. We have cancer, poverty, and dog fighting rings. And I have to attend my commencement ceremony, even though the only thing commencing is the other half of my other more important degree. Que sera sera.

So. How was the ceremony anyway? I’ve been a such a diva about it all this time, I’m sure you’re ready at last to hear me admit that it really wasn’t that bad and that I regret making such a fuss about it.

I couldn’t tell you how it was because I was barely cognizant. I haven’t the foggiest idea who our speaker was or what he/she spoke about because beneath my 100% polyester graduation gown was a small purse containing my phone with a freshly downloaded audiobook, a portable battery charger, and a can of Red Bull. Once I sat down in my seat under the oppressive glare of the arena lights and threaded my earbuds through the neck of my gown, I could close my eyes and imagine I was back on my patio, listening to the the gentle voice of a carefully selected narrator and working on my bomb ass tan. The only thing missing was a little gin and a nice smoke, which I’m honestly surprised I didn’t bring. I admittedly detected a slight hitch in my brilliant plan when I realized too late that I was still listening to my book when my name was called to the stage. Did my graduation photos all feature me shaking the hand of the elderly president with a pair of white Apple earbuds jammed in my ears like I’m in a poorly choreographed iPod commercial? They certainly did. Was it worth it? Of course it was. I would have been bored to death without my provisions. If the trade off is a tacky graduation photo, then at least I’ve got a good story.

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