I last wrote briefly from a parent’s perspective on graduation…
Never one to leave much alone, here’s a few thoughts about the ceremony itself…what it looks like…what’s really going on…
First of all, the robes never change. There’s never this year’s model. It’s all oddly Medieval. The caps, the sashes, the variously colored braids (all indicative of the discipline or field of study and the degree(s) of advancement) are fashion proof. Buy one and wear it for life. Practical pomposity.
What does provide these learned folks an opportunity for flair is their choice of footwear. Consistently and appropriately the footwear of quite a few professors seem to be making a statement. The boots, sandals and sneakers evidenced on many completely belie the gravitas of the robes draped above them. They’re an unmistakable counterpoint, none too subtle and quite often comical. Bravo to the young at heart!
The students themselves are another group of eagers who have made it to this academic finish line.
It happens. It’s supposed to happen. Every year, in fact. And so every year, the current batch of departing students put on their rented or disposable robes and mimic or mirror the guardians of the institution. The pomp and flourish of the circumstance seems grand but, in a way, it’s a bit of a cover up, a misdirecting of our attention.
They call it a commencement ceremony.
But the truth is that it is a dispersal event. This is a dismissal moment. The last class bell.
Underneath the smiles, there is a real sadness in the graduates. It masks itself as nervous excitement and giddy exuberance. But every student is aware that they are seeing most of the faces around them for the last time.
They may have shared a dorm room, a lab experiment, a class or two or three, an extracurricular activity or just a good time at a sporting event or concert…but now it’s finished.
Each of them is wondering: Who among all of these people will remain in meaningful contact in the years to come? Or even in casual contact via social media? Who will be my real friends and not simply the friends of proximity?
No one is absolutely certain.
That’s what brings on the sadness.
Was any of this real? Did any of our late night conversations, our escapades and near misses, our falling over laughter, our heart break tears, our struggles-failings-triumphs… Did any of it really matter? Did it make a difference?
Or were these four years just about this degree, this diploma, this required stepping stone on the path to a career?
Angst filled questions to be sure. Unanswerable for the moment. Unspoken for the most part.
I would so like to help them to understand that the diploma was the incidental aspect of these four years. That might be too much of a stretch though.
I would like to reassure every student that it was all of those interactions and experiences they shared with others that were what mattered and are what truly matters still.
The book learning will quickly be but a blur. The memory of those whose lives touched yours while yours touched theirs will be with you for a long, long time.
That’s what’s real.