Next Friday, sometime after 5 pm, I will have a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of Oregon. I’m going to walk and have a cap and gown and everything–I just borrowed the costume from a friend. I was supposed to buy a green braid for $12 too, because I’m graduating with honors, but it seemed like a scam. A lot of what comes up around graduation have seemed like scams. You can spend thousands of dollars on costumes and invitations and rings and memberships in various societies, not to mention airfare, lodging, and party supplies for friends and relatives coming from around the country. I have to admit to being a bit cynical about the whole thing. I only decided a couple weeks ago that I was going to walk. I went to the ceremony for the psych department last year and was not moved by it. Plus, I’m a little disappointed in how little you have to know to graduate from college. You can learn a lot, if you set your mind to it, but you don’t have to. I doubt you could graduate without being able to read, write and do some math, but I know for certain that you don’t have to do any of them well.

But I changed my mind. First, I was nominated to speak at the ceremony. I didn’t get the gig, but it seemed possible for a while, and I thought it would be a great challenge to come up with something good to say, and deliver it effectively. That would make the ceremony meaningful for me, and it would be weird to speak but not walk. And then when I started thinking about it I liked the idea more and more. Doing my honors thesis in the last year I’ve made several friends in my graduating class. We’ve been through the wringer together and supported each other and I feel really warmly towards them. I’ve also gotten to know some of the faculty and grad students in the department. And I have a bunch of good friends in Springfield and Eugene now, from dancing and music and Not Back to School Camp. It would be great to see them all in one place. I sent an email invitation to everyone nearby who I have an address for. I have no idea who will show up, I’m looking forward to seeing whoever does. (If you live in the area but did not get the email, I’m sorry. I may not have your address. Please come!)

Then there’s the importance of graduating itself. That I’m not so sure about. I love going to school. I love learning. I’m chronically curious. My getting a BS is about as momentous as skiing a lot is to someone who loves to ski. A couple of my friends who are graduating with me will be the first people in their families ever to graduate from college, and I can see that that makes a difference. My family has graduate degrees within a few generations on both sides, and everyone I’ve met in my family could easily have gotten a graduate degree if they’d been interested. They just haven’t been interested. Can I feel pride about this? I’m not sure. I think I’m going to give it a try. I have made the most of it. I have truly applied myself, learned a mountain of information, learned how to conduct scientific research, made myself into a much better reader and writer and more rigorous and open-minded thinker. I’ve also gotten myself into a graduate program in which I intend to become a strong and resourceful ally for couples and families. That is stuff to be proud about.

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