I daydreamed about my college graduation constantly in the months leading up to convocation. The ceremony represented a four-year journey of bouncing all over the collegiate map and coming out transformed. The dream normally consisted of perfect spring weather and a communal feeling of sappiness strong enough to rival the goodbye scene in Boy Meets World’s final episode. It was the idealized end to the whole experience.
But if there is one thing I should have learned in college, it’s that Mother Nature yields no “perfect spring weather” to Oklahomans—only spring weather that is perfect for tornados.
A five-day string of storms pummeled central Oklahoma as students finished their final exams. Tornados skirted the Norman boundaries and drove everyone to basements and shelters on multiple occasions. Rain came down with such ferocity that flash floods sprung up in every nook and cranny that allowed water. Even the sky took on a foggy and eerie visage that gave the whole affair an apocalyptic twinge.
Welcome to graduation weekend: here’s your poncho in case the world ends.
University convocation was cancelled only after myself, my parents, and 2,000 other people had already arrived. The rest of the evening my parents and I drove around Norman dodging flash floods and taking refuge in McDonalds in an effort to get to my aunt and uncle’s house on the other side of Norman.
Gaylord’s convocation the next day was another rainy affair, but the absence of “tornadic intervention” meant no ducking into shelters for safety—the convocation continued the best as it could between peals of thunder. Everyone in the audience was damp, and even people on stage had phones out in order to keep an eye on the weather.
Then graduation ended. As graduates and families trickled outside, the weatherworn audience discovered perfect spring weather had push away the rain. The sun shone through the thinning clouds and the grass possessed that sweet smell only present after a storm. All this perfect weather, and within 60 seconds all my friends scattered to find their families after hasty goodbyes.
Well, that could have gone differently.
I expected graduation to be the chief moment where all the disconnected experiences over the past four-year journey synthesized into one golden weekend of satisfaction and self-actualization. As the cynical reader of other young peoples’ graduation blogs, I should know better. Graduation, while incredibly symbolic and guaranteed to get you 100+ likes on Facebook if you post a photo, is only a ceremonial representation. It is not the ultimate and final moment, but rather the penultimate moment that sets the stage for post-graduate life.
I was reading C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet the Monday after graduation, and I stumbled across an excellent quote that I think is the best way to view graduation, college and the ceremonial culmination of young peoples’ work:
“When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now [as time passes] it is growing something as we remember it, and what [it will be] when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then—that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.” –C.S. Lewis
What college is and what graduation symbolizes is not fully defined for a person until the end of life—a little trippy, but if you inverse the logic the idea becomes much more applicable:
You have the rest of your life to define what college and graduation meant for you, and you will define it by how you use the experience, skills and knowledge acquired as a college student to shape the life you live from this day onward.
So what if I didn’t get my idealized ending to my college career? Instead, I got the sitcom/slapstick/apocalyptic flick version of graduation that makes for a better story. I used my time in college well, and I’m confident that I have the skills to go out into the world and use what I learned to make meaning, impact and difference.
Peace out, OU.
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