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.

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