Sunday, May 14, 2006

Future's So Bright

The university’s graduation ceremonies were this weekend. My first as faculty because I usually skip town the minute grades are in. I don’t like ceremony and I loathe long speeches full of empty slogans and clunky metaphors. Also, normally because I teach lower level classes more frequently than upper, by the time “my” students have graduated they’ve forgotten both my name and how to document properly. So those are my reasons. My excuses. This year though it was made clear that faculty participation in graduation is mandatory. For two days I stewed. My rebelliousness turned me into an instant four year old (“You are NOT the boss of me”) but my need for approval sent me running for a last minute gown and appropriate cap and hood.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the hood color for humanities is white and with my alma mater colors of red and white, I was not nearly so colorful as my peacock-y colleagues. In fact, I looked like a nun. Also, I felt inferior in my non-velvet trim un-PhD robe. Until, that is, I discovered that my special master’s sleeves had secret pockets for lip gloss, Kleenex, and mints.

There is always a little too much optimism at graduations. When I graduated from high school, someone had cut out Old English letters that spelled out our class motto: The Future Is Ours: Therefore, the Best is Yet to Come. Though I was no good at math, this equation didn’t add up for me. Why would the future be better simply because it was ours? Who were we? After the masking tape letters started to unstick, the art teacher saw it and thought it was an apathetic motto for an apathetic generation. The “b” had fallen and she thought it read: The future is ours; therefore the REST is yet to come.

This is a better motto, in my opinion. The pressure is off. There will be no let down when the best doesn’t happen because it’s really just the rest. Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.

Back to this more recent graduation. The speeches were long and the metaphors were clunky. But I liked the medieval-ness. The tradition. Seeing the biggest class my division has ever graduated marching through the tunnel of us. Who knew that would be such a good feeling? So, yeah, I’ll go next year. I won’t feel the need to rebel. But I’m hoping to use those sleeves to smuggle in some Oreos and maybe my iPod.

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