My Recent Graduation
This past weekend was graduation at my alma-mater, Taylor University. On Saturday, I talked with a fellow ’10 alumna through a 3-hour time difference. We realized that we have been saying things like: “I just graduated” and “I graduated in May” for a year now. We can’t say those things anymore, unless we want to be confused with the class of 2011, who are now making their way into the world. I realized that we have passed the time of life when we were easy to categorize. You can no longer discreetly find out someone’s age, relative to you, with a simple question like: “what year are you?” or “what grade are you in?” This is not a problem faced by one of my favorite cultures, that of South Korea. They have different words to describe an older or younger sibling, an older or younger girl or boy and each conversation begins with an establishment of where you fall in age. Their culture is all about respect, the respect that should be shown to those older and (ostensibly) wiser, than you are. I am comfortable with this, so forgive me if I occasionally risk rudeness and ask how old you are, I’m just trying to be Korean, here in the Pacific Northwest. I want to know where I fall.
I used to have a new identity handed to me each year. I was a Freshman, a Sophomore, an upperclassman or English major. We were our ages, our studies, we were the places in which we lived. In campus lore, boys were supposed to marry English (Hall) girls and date Olson (Hall) girls. I lived in both halls, leaving me somewhere in the middle. Each club and activity had it’s own little subset of people who did things a certain way, talked a certain way, were a certain way. Now I’m just a person, and when I meet someone new I’m not tied to my major, my dorm or my club persona. This can be wonderful and terrible all at the same time.
Graduation (my own) seems just moments ago in some ways. I still remember the hot, sweaty day under a black gown, packing the last of my things and vacuuming the tired floor one more time. Hugging my hall director (a person I knew very little) and crying with the overwhelming emotion of a day that brought life as I had known it for the last 2.5 years to an end. I hugged and shook hands with people that I may never see again this side of heaven. I posed for pictures with people I loved, and people I no longer know. This all seems yesterday, and so distant, as well.
I spoke to one of my favorite professors by phone last week. We talked writing and the English program and caught up on one another’s lives. At the end he said: “this feels like old times, if I can get used to calling something that happened a year ago ‘old times.’” I know the feeling, it felt just like I was back in his office, talking about my senior project, with graduation seeming like a looming thing that would never really happen.
I have news from the other side: it did.