I live in a college town. Actually, this town is home to a pretty large university. (Largest in the state? I’ll get my fact-checkers on that right away.) This weekend was graduation for that institution. Therefore, driving through town was something of a nightmare, if one’s nightmare consists of being stuck in traffic for approximately three times longer than normal or having to slam on one’s brakes for the unexpected influx of pedestrians in cap and gown.
But all of these graduation festivities got me thinking about my own graduation, many revolutions ago. I received my bachelor’s degrees way back in 2003. Yes, it was in this century, though it seems so long ago, it may as well have been in the 20th.
I was a forward thinking kid in my early 20s. I managed to get the president of the college to get a selfie with me. But this was before we understood that cell phones were really meant to be cameras. At that point, I’m not sure I was comfortable using my phone for texting. It was just a call in/call out sort of device. And even then, just for emergencies. Mindless chatting was the sort of nonsense you found on landlines.
Anyway, I received the ceremonial folder which did not contain my actual degree and shook Dr. Mac’s hand. I leaned in and asked if I could get a picture with him. Of course he said yes (because I’m pretty sure, out of all the students at Bluefield College during his tenure, I was his favorite), and looked out to the audience, probably expecting to find my mother with a camera at the foot of the stage. To his surprise, I produced a small, disposable camera from the over sized sleeve of my graduation gown. He laughed, the crowd laughed… it was a hoot.According to statistics* 47% of all colleges and universities in the US have had to ban graduates from taking selfies while on stage, going so far as to insist that they not even have their cell phones in their possession during the ceremony. I wasn’t trying to start a trend, guys. I was just trying to get a cheap laugh and a cherished memory. That selfie with the president even made the yearbook. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I made up 33.3% of the yearbook staff that year.
It wasn’t until later that day, moving out of the dorm and into my first apartment, that the reality of graduation sank in. I had just completed five years of college and I really had no idea what was happening next. I had a job lined up, sure, but it wasn’t what I intended to do with my life. Not that I ever really figured that part out, but I was so confused. Besides that, I began to really miss my friends. There were so few of those friends who stuck around Bluefield after graduation. When it really hit me, I cried.
I know what you’re thinking. Here we go again. This guy cries all the flippin’ time! I really don’t. Those posts over the last few weeks about being stressed out and then crying for no apparent reason, they really are an anomaly if you look at the big picture. Granted, I’m the only one who’s known me for my whole life. So I’m the only one with the full benefit of the big picture. But when those big things happen, I do let myself cry. Even though I’m still not sure what brought it on the other day…
Anyway, the emotions hit because I wasn’t really ready to grow up (not that I’m ready now). I wasn’t ready to let go of the friends I’d known for years. I wasn’t ready to let go of the family that those friends had grown into before we all went our separate ways. Ready or not, that time came. And it came when it was supposed to. Just because I was suddenly gonna be a little lonely shouldn’t have stopped college from ending.
The loneliness didn’t last. I still had some friends in town. And I ended up growing even closer to them than I had during my college career. For a season, they became my family. And, really, they still are my family. The reunions are just fewer and farther between these days.
*This is a statistic that I totally made up. But it seems like a rule that some colleges and universities would institute. It’s a rule made up by the same stuffed-shirts that refuse to allow graduates to bring beach balls to toss around during the ceremony. Buzzkill.