Friday, April 15, 2005

Graduation Season

This is a busy time of the year I'm sure for many of you... and for me. Especially with my day job -- it's graduation season!

Though I usually dread this time of year -- it's incredibly busy keeping track of hundreds of names, tickets, blah blah blah, on the administrative end-- I am finding myself really taking in the joy many of my students and their families are feeling about meeting this academic goal.

For me, graduation was never a big deal. I never requested or wanted parties, walking across stages, wearing that hot gown and hat, and all the formalities. To me, it was a bit much. And also, I guess since I always expected to go to and finish college and grad school, it was like, "OK... Now what?"

But graduation is a big deal. And the past two days I heard so many stories from people who re-started school after 35, or raising their families, or who were addicts but got clean by pursuing higher education, or who stopped and started and stopped and started, or who never set foot on a campus in her life, but enrolled, paid, and just showed up in class... and they're all so proud of their achievements. And they should be. And I am too.

Though we've got about two months more to go in prepping for the ceremonies -- in addition to university commencement, I help to coordinate Asian, Black, Pride-Gay/Les, and Raza graduate celebrations -- it's so nice to hear the excitement people have for their season. (And before you ask, the celebrations are open to all people who support and honor the cultural heritages and stories of the communities mentioned. These groups haven't always been accepted or wanted on college campuses -- and in the Red States, I mean right place, you still have similar attitudes that don't want to include everyone as equals...)

So if you're thinking about going back to school -- do it. If it takes you 12 years to do it -- do it. If there are people around you who don't support you -- do it, and find people who will support you. If your boss discourages you from using your time for school -- use your vacation time. If you need to wake up at 3 am to study -- do it. Everyone I talked to these past few days-- people with very similar circumstances I just mentioned -- found it so worth it. These are the L.A. stories (and life stories in general) that we don't see. (Writers, get your notebooks out!!!)

And if you're a grad, and you hate all the pomp and circumstance (I truly hated all that stuff!), know that it's a big deal for the family to see you walking and dressed like a mini-professor. Just suck it up and enjoy the day. It's just one day.

But for them, it's a lifetime of dreams being realized!


Anonymous said...

As a 40 year old contemplating going back to get the BA that I started 20 years ago, your blog gave me hope.

Frederick Smith said...

Hey anonymous... I hope you will consider going back. There's a lot of support on campuses for returning students these days. And even if you just do it 2 or 3 classes here and there, you'll make progress and before you know it... you'll be marching across that stage.

And I didn't even get to the story of the woman who told me she often got to school on gas fumes in her car and a prayer many a day... and who felt like she was holding her fellow students back with her questions. She said someone wrote her a note saying she was an inspiration because she asked the questions all the "younger" students were afraid to ask.

Give it a try and go back if you can...

Frederick Smith said...
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