In the days and weeks leading up to this past weekend, every time I started to think about May 19 – any part of what the day would entail – I would quickly divert my mind elsewhere, for fear of starting to cry right then and there. I guess I was trying to save up emotion for the day itself.
However, as I donned my cap, gown, stoles and honor cords outside the BMO Harris Bradley center last Sunday (where I am usually clad in blue and gold spirit wear and cheering on our men’s basketball team), my insides were buzzing with excitement. I took pictures with friends and smiled as I watched my classmates and fellow graduates do the same. Hugs were given and received. I laughed a lot, actually. Not because anything was particularly funny (except commencement speaker Bill Cosby, and who wouldn’t laugh with him?), but because I was just so happy.
As I walked onto the floor, holding the hand of one of a dear friend and sister, I could feel myself beaming with joy. It was one of the most joyous and exciting days of my life. I don’t think I stopped smiling once from the moment I zipped up my gown until I started packing up my room later that evening (which is never the most joyous task in anyone’s life…), even when my mom made me stand on my chair so she could take my picture from the audience. When we stood at the end of the ceremony, I think I even turned to my friend before we sang the “Alma Mater” song and said, “This is going to make me cry.” But it didn’t. I sang with happiness and pride, in my university and my own accomplishments.
During the College of Communication graduation ceremony, my fellow graduates and I worried a little bit about the actual walking across the stage to receive our diplomas, and how awkward it would be to hug the professors waiting to greet us, or if we should simply shake their hands. My plan had been to go in for handshakes unless any of them initiated hugs, but who just shakes someone’s hand when they are about as excited as they have ever been in their entire life? Not me, apparently. Hugs all around for the professors.
If I was so happy all day, why was I expecting to cry? I’ve been pondering this lately. Graduation is not a sad day at all. Receiving a Bachelor’s of Anything degree is a huge accomplishment that most people in the world do not even have the privilege to attempt to do. It is an occasion for celebration, pride and joy. Even if a graduate does not have any idea what the next step of their life will be, the world is full of possibilities. Leaving college is a little bit difficult and emotional; for most people, they leave a place they have called home for four (or more) years, and that is not an easy thing to do. I would rather think of it as the beginning of something than the end, though.
Maybe he was talking about graduation ceremonies when wise Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”