Saturday, May 21, 2005
The 28 year journey - a VERY emotional experience
I'm no spring chicken. I graduated high school in 1977. I can still see in my mind a photograph of that momenteous occasion. My youngest sister was also 'graduating' from kindergarten that year and the photo in my mind is of the two of us standing in front of our fireplace in our caps and gowns. We're not exactly posing for the camera though; we're looking at one another.

28 years later and I'm finally getting my first college degree. It almost didn't happen publicly.

I had a huge anxiety attack around 4:00 when I figured out I was not going to be able to wear the gown I had. It's a long sad story, I'm not going to get into here, but imagine me (especially if you *know* me) running - okay trotting - across campus in my strappy sandles, one hand on my cap which was finally pinned perfectly in place after a gazillion tries, the not-working gown flapping in the wind behind me, trying to get to the bookstore to get another gown. I assure you it was not a pretty site. More like a gargantuous crow squawking its way through a tranquil valley.

Fortunately for me I quit the bookstore in the good graces of graduation-gown lady. She didn't know I was walking, and was thrilled to see me. She lent me a gown with strict instruction to return it early next week. Oh the joy of having friends in high places.

Back to the theater.

By this time I've missed all the instruction given to the soon to be graduates and pride in hand, new gown on back and perfectly pinned cap now slightly wonky from the marathon, I walk down the long, long rows of students asking for the "O's". They're only in alphabetical order by the 1st initial of last name, so I just get in line after the last one I can find. I would have probably been the last "O" in a perfectly alphabetized group anyway.

Now we wait. And wait some more. One hour. Dressed head to strappy sandled toe in black. In the southern California sun. On one of the hottest days we've had this year. Strappy sandled feet on hot concrete. One hour. No shade and no water, 'cause heaven forbid if I have to pee during the next 4 hours.

The things I saw and heard during that hour were definate memory makers. Cell phones were hidden on everyone. You can only imagine the different ring tones coming from that many individuals. There were "where are you sitting" "where are you standing" phonecalls going on around me, and I evesdropped on as many as possible. I even whipped my own communication device out for a phonecall to the parents who promised to have a drink for me. Both just as proud of me last night as they were 28 years ago.

Of course I also called Son because I wanted him to come and take my purse. Yep, I had my purse with me. And it was crammed full of the gown that wouldn't work, the caclulator from that morning's final, and a couple of other items all of which felt like a ton on that hot, feet killing concrete sidewalk I had been standing on for an hour.

Son, was not even in the county. He had decided to go to Mammouth early and was not showing up for my graduation. There is no way to describe the disappointment I felt at that moment. A tear fell.

Oh my, we moved! I got to stand on the edge of a shaded portion of the sidewalk for about 10 minutes, and then we moved again. This time I could see professors lining up in front of where the "A's" were and the Head of Student Services began walking between the two rows of us telling us that when we moved again it would be all the way to the seating area.

My feet are killing me (did I say that already?) and I'm worried that I missed the instruction and have no idea what is going to be happening. It was a pleasant surprise.

I hear the commencement march, I hear clapping and hooting and hollering and my heart starts to flutter. The next thing I know I have this huge grin on my face and I realize that we are walking the gauntlet of professors from the school. They have stopped just short of where we enter the seating area and they are clapping and congratulating us. Those professors whose classes I sat through, that kept me up all hours of the night and had me up with the chickens, sitting in law libraries for hours upon hours, purchasing ream after ream of paper for all the legal research I downloaded, are calling me by name and congratulting me for being there, and this is when I realize after 28 years I finally finished my first college degree. And I start to cry.

We cannot see where we'll end up until we turn a corner and walk under an archway onto the football field. When we come through that archway we're facing our family and friends, and I don't even know if anyone is out there for me, but at that very moment I could care less.

There were several awards given to people, which I won't bore you with, then came our guest speaker. I really enjoyed what she had to say. She kept it funny, even sharing with us what celebrity speakers had said at other schools. In the end she told us to go out into the world and "do well and do good." What better advice can you give someone, than that?

I was in the company of 100s of fellow students who worked hard and overcame obstacles. We were surrounded by those that loved us and supported us during a long journey of many sacrifices on both sides. During a brief recognition of the professors I turned to see my math professor looking my way and I knew I'd made it, finally.

After the ceremony my phone begins to ring and it's Husband telling me to stop walking and turn around. I hadn't been alone, afterall.

This morning I'm up with the chickens again. Old habits die hard. I have a solid blister across the ball of my right foot just under my big toe and the two next to it. Just the excuse I need to not do anything today. I think I'll stitch.
posted by Terri at 6:15 AM |