Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Surreal Life - Graduation Edition

Well, I did it. I graduated from college. It still feels a little unreal, though it sinks in a bit more with each passing day. I've been an official graduate for 3 whole days, and I'm already a grad student. No rest for the weary (or is it the wicked?) My first residency starts next week, and I can hardly wait...well, that's not entirely true. I am enjoying the break from school, no matter how short. It's nice to know I don't have anything I have to do for school for a few days. Yesterday was one, long, glorious day of wasting time and accomplishing nothing. It was everything I dreamed of and then some.

Back to graduation, though. It was an amazing experience. (No mocking my vague, hyperbolic adjective, either. It really was. I couldn't think of a better word, except maybe awesome.) Last Thursday was the first of the surreal graduation experiences. I sat in Twichell auditorium, shivering in the overwrought air-conditioning and marveling that I was actually there getting ready to graduate. Despite the mind-numbingly boring explanations (and over-explanations) of how graduation would run, none of us could stop grinning. We looked like a bunch of high-class hyenas in dresses, heels, and pearls. You don't get much more surreal than that! Then there was the Candlelight Senior Dinner with its tearful, drunken toasting and slideshow set to graduation classics like Green Day's "Time of Your Life." I felt a little like I was trapped in some bad 80's movie, but I loved every minute of it. Baccalaureate was the next night, followed by Hats Off and dinner with family.

Graduation Day dawned gray and rainy. Apparently, it never rains on Converse graduation...except when I graduate. So lunch on the lawn wasn't going to happen, but I didn't care. They could throw my diploma to me as I drove by the school, so long as I had that document in my hot, little hands when it was all over. Fortunately, that didn't happen. I got my diploma like everyone else, during Commencement. I must admit that after Steve walked me over to Wilson Hall to line up, it all started to feel a little unreal. I don't think I was the only one feeling this way, either. Everyone seemed a little on edge, a little different, like we were strangers meeting for the first time. We made polite conversation and took pictures together because that's what we were supposed to do. No one seemed clear on what we were supposed to do after all this was over.

Once I got settled in my seat in Gee Dining Hall, I looked over the program. I quickly found my name, also a little unreal. Sarah Elizabeth, summa um laude. Wait a minute. Did that say what I think it did? Sure enough. The only typo in the entire program was next to my name. That one little missing "C" gave me and those around me a good laugh until it was time to head into Twichell for the big event. As we walked out of Wilson, the faculty applauded us, another surreal happening for the history books. We lined up outside Twichell and applauded the faculty as they processed into the auditorium. Then it was our turn. I know I am a writer, and therefore, should be able to explain how I felt as I walked to my seat. Alas, I cannot. I suppose I could say that my heart was full or some other cliche like that, but that just wouldn't cover it. As I found my seat, I looked up to the balcony to see where Steve and my parents had promised to sit. I waved hello with my grin.

I must confess that I barely remember walking across the stage to get my diploma and hood. I certainly didn't hear any of my friends names as they were called after mine. I was in a daze. I couldn't then (and still can't now) believe that I was holding my diploma in my hand. It wasn't just me, either. My friend, Megan, kept giving me the most ridiculously wide grin (I know mine was exactly like hers.) We kept squeezing each other's hand. I'm not sure if we were congratulating each other, or trying to make sure the moment was real.
After lots of hugs and pictures, we made our way to Gee Dining Hall for some bad food, good friends, and continued photo ops. My night of no sleep was starting to kick in. When we finally peeled ourselves away from the festivities (I wasn't sure I was ready for everything to be over), we headed home to get ready for the graduation party. I began my preparations with a nap. Nothing glamorous or surreal there. Just one tired graduate. Not even graduating summa Cum laude could make up for a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hold On To That Feeling

Four days to go. It seems unreal that in four short days I'll be a college graduate. Tomorrow I drop off my final paper/exam for Domesticity class (and no, that's not a class on how to make beds and sew on buttons), and then that's the last school assignment of my undergraduate career. I know it's cliche, but the past four-and-a-half years have gone by incredibly fast. It literally feels like yesterday that I was psyching myself up for my first class (Art Appreciation.) I had to make a deal with myself before the class that I would speak out at least once every night. Now, they can't get me to shut up.

It's really hard to comprehend the changes we go through unless we have a frame of reference, and this school journey has given me an excellent one. I am no longer the girl who's initimidated by a room full of other students...even if I don't know anyone in the room. I feel confident in my opinions and my ability to speak them in a coherent manner. I am so grateful for my time at Converse and for the knowledge and confidence that I gained there.

Today, as I sat waiting for the delivery truck to bring my new dining room furniture (a whole blog entry in itself), I received two phone calls from classmates. That's one thing I'm certainly going to miss...a built in group of women with the same interests and ideals. I have been so amazed and overwhelmed by the friendship of the women of Converse, and I will miss the interaction with them.

This weekend promises to be fun enough, however, to drown any I'm-going-to-miss-everybody blues. Thursday is commencement rehearsal and the senior candlelight dinner. Friday is Baccalaureate (not certain on the spelling of that one) and Hats Off and then dinner. My parents and Steve's will be here for that, so it should be fun. It also doesn't hurt that I have a fabulous new dress for those occasions. (Who doesn't love to get dressed up in a pretty dress?) Saturday morning is graduation and then brunch on the lawn. Everything is capped off by the graduation party that Steve is throwing for me that afternoon. There will be grilling and friends and cake, and I am certain that the evening will devolve into Rock Band. What party at the Gray house doesn't end up with a roomful of people pretending to play instruments and wailing into a microphone? The cats will probably have to go into hiding.

In less that two weeks after graduation, my first grad school residency begins. I am very excited about that, too. Though it's hard to focus on that with all the graduation frenzy bubbling up inside me. It promises to be a lot of fun, though...spending 9 days with a bunch of other writers. I'm thinking summer camp, only, hopefully, with better food.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Final Countdown

Okay, so my title probably makes you think of Gob Bluth and his bird killing magic tricks (at least it does if you run in the same circles I do.) Anyway, I'm not writing a blog entry about bad magic tricks, or even cancelled sitcoms. The final countdown which I am referencing is the one I am updating every day on my Facebook page...the number of days until graduation. Of course, maybe the magic is not so far off either. I have lots to do between now and graduation, but somehow, bit by bit, it's becoming more manageable, more believable. In less than 2 weeks, I'm graduating, ready or not.

This past week has been filled with all sorts of pre-graduation events, and each one has lent a bit more reality to the impending date. Last weeked was the most AMAZING wrap party for Concept Literary Journal. The staff and our professors/advisors came over to my house for dinner and, inevitably, Rock Band. It was a night I won't soon forget. Of course, they probably won't either. One girl informed me that my rendition of "Pretty Fly For a White Guy" was the greatest moment of her senior year. Hyperbole aside, though, it was a fun evening and a great release from all the end of semester stress.

Next I had the Gamma Sigma dinner and the Concept release party. Gamma Sigma, which is Converse College's version of Phi Beta Kappa, was such an honor, and the dinner they held for the new inductees was lovely. It isn't often that you get to spend a couple of hours with highly educated people who proceed to pat you on the back the entire time. It was actually a little surreal, but I highly recommend the experience. Who doesn't like to be told they're great? If don't believe me, we'll go to lunch, and I'll spend the entire time telling you how impressed I am with you. You'll be a new person in no time.

The Concept release party went far better than I expected. After several delays in delivery, the books finally arrived, and they look terrific. I was worried that the location of the party (the Writing Center) and the time (so near the end of the year) would hurt our attendance, but we had a great turnout, and everyone was so willing to read their work. I really enjoyed reading my essay, "Denver For Dummies," and everyone seemed to get a chuckle out of it, which is always nice. Of course both of these events were held the same evening, and I had a presentation that morning, so I spend a rather long day in my dress clothes and heels. I must be getting old because I can't traipse around in strappy, high-heeled sandals all day like I used to do.

Saturday was Awards Day at school, and that was lovely, too. I was recognized for Gamma Sigma and being a Nisbet Scholar, and I also recieved a Lykes award for my fiction and an honorable mention for my non-fiction in Concept. Best of all, Steve got to be there, and that made me very happy.

So as I look back over this entry, I realize that it reads a bit like a list of my accomplishments, which was not my intention. Rather, I wanted to share all the exciting events that have been going on as my final year as an undergrad winds to close. The past four-and-a-half years have been such an amazing journey, and I am so grateful for each and every part. I have met so many wonderful people as a result of my time at Converse. Never have I encountered so many brilliant, talented, and caring women as I have there. I am certain that we will be hearing about them for many years to come as they go out into the "real" world and make their way. As an older student, I have a slightly different perspective, and I must say that I am heartened by prospect of these women being our country's future.

This may be my last blog entry for a week or two. (I know, I said that before, and here I am.) Graduation and all its festivities are right around the corner. I will be back, however, bearing pictures and my very own diploma. And yes, there will be cake.