The following click story is written by a former band mate of my husband’s. Justin is one of those really creative people who always entertains me with the funny and interesting ideas he posts on Facebook and Twitter. I’m so excited he agreed to write a click story! If you’d like to read more from Justin, you can find his blog here…and there you will find all the links to his social media pages. And if you are my friend on FB you may even be able to find a video that captures Justin’s guitar playing skills.
“I swung my tassel to the left side of my cap, knowing after graduation there would be no going back.” — David Bazan, “Hard To Be”
The commencement ceremony lasted around two hours — much shorter than I thought it would be. In the first 15 minutes, as everyone shuffled to their seats, I was enlisted by the large southern gentleman on my left to help find his name in the program because he didn’t know that his major (Political Science) was under the College of Social Sciences. A half hour later, I watched as the small Asian girl on my right fought the forces of evil in her Final Fantasy game on Nintendo DS. I couldn’t hear what the commencement speaker was saying, so I put in my iPod earbuds and watched the crowd.
Large seated crowds are an amazing thing because that many people can’t all sit still for more than five seconds at a time. When you have the chance, look around at thousands of seated people — someone reaches up to scratch their head, someone else turns to crack a joke to their neighbor. Up close, these activities are nothing new. But spread them out, over and over again, across an arena, and the movements become surreal, like you’re watching from a dream. I suppose, however, it would be even weirder to see everyone sitting absolutely still.
The week before graduation, my final column had run in the student newspaper. I thought back on four years of college and wrote about my own experience, hoping that others would find meaning where I had. I wrote that college was as much a time of personal development as it was an educational experience. I’d link to the column here, but after my departure, the newspaper revamped their website, dumping the online archives.
A week after the ceremony, as a graduation present to myself, I set out with Jessica to New Orleans. A few days in NOLA, I thought to myself, and then my true adulthood would begin — I would hit the job market in earnest. My lifetime of education would pay off. With my two college degrees in hand, I would go up one more step on that rope ladder to success.
“You have to learn how to die if you want to be alive.” — Wilco, “War on War”
It only took a few days of hands-on experience for me to learn that you don’t have to spin the dough in the air and catch it on your arm to make a good pizza. Abnee could certainly do that, and do it well, but over the four months I worked at Brooklyn Pizza the summer after my college graduation, the middle-aged Albanian with a beer gut who used to play semi-professional soccer taught me that you just needed to push all the air out of the dough, starting at the center — “Like this,” he said, smacking down hard on the marble counter — and after 45 seconds you would have a perfect circle of dough. I smacked down hard on the counter and then tried in shame to salvage my egg-shaped creation, but before I had the chance to stretch it out too thin, Abnee snapped up the dough and re-sculpted it for me so we could stay on schedule.
He makes the pizzas, I deliver them.
When after months of searching ads I told him I had finally found a job — in an office, at my university — Abnee nodded and said, “You go there during the day, then you come here at 5:30, right?” Well…
“If I can see it, then I can do it, if I just believe it, there’s nothing to it.”
I can still remember my sixth grade graduation. Our music teacher conducted our graduating class in a, uh, sparkling rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” The exciting yet trying adventures of junior high — where emotions and hormones were to mingle fitfully in the air — lay just ahead.
At the end of eighth grade, my transition to high school was much less ceremonial: I remember sitting in the back of my last class of the day, Pre-Alegebra, my good friend at the time Matthew Harrison yelling at me that we were going to separate high schools and we would probably never see each other again <i>for the rest of our lives</i>, and all I could do was write an inside joke in his yearbook? (I don’t remember the exact joke, but it involved The Cars.)
I’ve never been good at yearbooks.
What I didn’t know then and what I’m starting to learn now is that we make our own goals and recognize our own achievements and ultimately determine our own happiness. As a kid, I always knew what was expected of me — go to school, get good grades, go to college, get good grades. Graduate. But those were all still goals that I had set up for myself. What about after college, then? I felt betrayed by the system as I earned minimum wage (plus tips) delivering pizzas while a friend of mine who had dropped out of college made 50K doing what he had been doing for years (working with computers). I thought society owed me more.
Graduations are only as important as you make them, and society only owes you as much as you put into it. I had spent four wonderful years in college, living on loans from society, not worrying about working, and experiencing emotional, social, and yes, educational development, but not much practical experience I could offer back to society.
Now, I have to set my own goals, schedule my own mini-graduations, but always keep an eye on what I’m doing and what I could be doing next. In the knowing words of the underprivileged child turned drug dealer and rap superstar, Jay-Z, “Don’t be mad, ’cause it’s all about progression.”
But at the same time, don’t be mad if the progression doesn’t go the way you thought it would. Take notes, learn, grow, graduate, and move on.