I’m just going to ignore the elephant in the room and discuss what was probably one of the most important moments of my life. The reward for my three years of accumulated hard work. The result of my parents determination to see their once child and now woman child, up on that podium.
And it was all over in the matter of minutes.
The build up to graduation was non existent for me as I had already enrolled myself into my masters. I was already knee deep in bio med notes and trying my best to sort my shit out. All the while my phone was blowing up with messages from my friends, showing their excitement for the next day. My attention was won over by some dead guys oral cavity as opposed to the finalised outfit details my friends were posting (sorry guys). Either way, it hadn’t occurred to me that I was graduating the next day. So fast forward a few hours and on the day of graduation, I sat in front of the mirror in my parents room (they had the best lighting) and thought, how the heck was I supposed to make my face look presentable?
Immediately, I regretted not practising the art of making my face look somewhat presentable but I figured, had I practised, it probably wouldn’t have ended up the way I wanted it to on the day. I went about putting my make up on anyway, not knowing what look I was going for. I don’t really go for ‘dewy’ or ‘sultry’ looks. It doesn’t work like that. What really happens is I make a stab at it, pick up my blending sponge and hope for the best. Whatever the outcome, you best believe I had to roll with it. Sadly, my make up skills are very limited and anything that remotely hid the plain and the ugly, I was good with.
I didn’t take as long as I thought when getting ready. Which was surprising because it seemed like I was so worked up about my appearance. It was the biggest day of my life thus far and I wanted to look pretty. When we got in the car, I quickly flicked through a few selfies that I took on my phone and regretted not wearing false lashes or contouring my nose. Girls, and boys, believe me. The last thing you want to do on an important day is mull over not looking pretty enough. It will ruin your day. So not wanting to do this, I got over it because graduation was supposed to be a celebration of my achievements, and I wasn’t going to let my lack of self confidence get in the way of that.
We were lucky enough to have sunshine.
And a beautiful venue.
And with my hat and gown now on and waiting to go inside the venue, it felt so very real. I remember coming out of the marque for the first time with my hat and gown, and when I saw my parents, I couldn’t help but produce the most cheesiest smile. There’s something special about meeting your parents in your graduation gear. Treasure it.
It went by so quickly. And not just because the staff and helpers were ushering people to get inside so we weren’t late for the ceremony. But because we were all just soaking up the excitement and rushed to take a few selfies before we went inside to meet our allocated seats. Sometime between sitting down and getting up on the podium was where realisation struck. Actually, it was probably the minute they called my name, and I focused on putting one foot forward and one behind as I took a step up the stage.
I’ve always labelled those three years during my undergraduate degree as some of the best years of my life. But it also provided me with some of the worst and the most stressful. The anxiety over not making your grade. Stresses over dealing with continuing through a module you hated. And the one that probably hit me the most, when your best seemed to get you a grade you weren’t hoping for at all. All of those things, even the good, was sealed with me shaking the hand of the chancellor on stage, and then facing the mass crowd as I made my way down the aisle.
It was all over.
And as happy and relieved as I was, there was an un-explainable sadness in that.
As I was walking down the aisle, I managed to catch my parents, jeering as I walked past and took my seat. The build up to the handshake on stage goes by very quickly. The bit after where you sit through everyone else having their go was excruciatingly long (and very humid!) but the fact that this was my only chance ever to live this moment powered me through. I even managed to clap for every person that went on stage! Well, almost everyone.
The day ended with the procession of newbie graduates leaving the venue, and participating in the age old tradition of throwing your hat into the air (unsuccessfully) and catching it (also unsuccessful), but I guess I didn’t do too bad. After saying my goodbyes to my friends, and returned my hat and gown, I remember sitting in the car, my heels kicked off and looking out the window, all melodramatically, imagining myself in some hot off the net music video and thinking, what next?
Sure I was going back to my masters tomorrow, and telling my new course buddies about how graduation went but how do you deal with reluctantly letting go of what used to be normal, and starting a new normal? For me, graduating from my undergraduate was MORE than just being a graduate. It meant was so much more than that, making my anxiety over my appearance earlier on look incredibly petty.
If I had to name the chapter that ended with me graduating, I would probably name it something like “The One Where I Grew Up” or “From Girl to Woman Girl”. Probably the latter because I started my degree not really knowing who I was, like a little lost puppy. Don’t get me wrong, it still isn’t crystal clear but graduation has bought about a sense of self confidence and a fresh perspective.