Three years ago I never thought that I'd be graduating in a heat wave.
There I stood in the heavy black robes, the mortarboard cap slipping down in trails of my forehead sweat, filled with that uncanny sense of pride and loss. We knew that we had achieved something that we doubted we could along the road. The sense of loss came from knowing we may never wait in those halls again outside a seminar room or take a lecture with one of our favourite educators. Whenever reaching an end of an era like this the literature student in my always imagines it as a book that has been written, closed, and is lovingly being put away on a shelf. We will look back to that book in search of memories, learning experiences and wisdom as time goes by but the shelf has made more space for the many chapters of the many books that are still unwritten.
We gathered outside the building where the ceremony would take place in our heavy gowns and mortarboard caps. We were a sea of black and blue fabric trembling from the heat and the anticipation of the ceremony ahead. In a secondary circle gathering around us stood the people there to support us as they had supported all our previous endeavours: friends, families, partners, colleagues.
The Chancellor giving the commencement address told a simple story or how a man filled a glass container to the top with large rocks and asked people if it was full. When they said yes he threw in some small pebbles that moved in between the cracks. With a raised eyebrow he asked everyone if the container was full now. When the students said yes he pulled our a jar of sand and poured that in too. Immediately the sand filled further space within the container. The moral of the story was that the big rocks were the important things in our lives: love, family, our health. The pebbles were other things of importance: education, jobs. The sand was all the "small stuff" that gets in between. He reminded us that if we were to fill our container with sand, the "small things" that don't matter, then we'd have no space for the rocks representational of what is important in life. Then, he says, a student who had been listening to him at the time of the demonstration pulled a cheap can of beer from his bag and poured it in stating "but at the end of the day there's always time for beer." He then continued to ramble on about the importance of education in this age full of technology. In fact he went so far as to say at one point that our education, in some way I still do not grasp, meant nothing. What an apt way to end student life: "you'll probably forget all you've learned or not use it much... but hey, there's always time for a beer, right?" In truth this message left me feeling a little deflated. Really? This is the message that is following me out the door into my first steps as a graduate with a BA Hons degree? Then I took a moment to look around at my friends sat around me, people I'd shared many a beer with over the past three years, and realised that they were my rocks. My parents, who were conveniently sat behind me, were my rocks. My sister who was watching the ceremony via a live video link was my rock. My partner who was waiting for me at home was my rock. Without the people in my life I wouldn't have made it to this day. The wonderful people who had educated me along the way were my rock too. They have rallied together unknowingly to create a solid foundation for me to stand on as I climbed the ladder to reach my degree. It is important to remember those who laid the path for us and equally important to remember that we were the ones who walked it.
After the ceremony the people in my life, my rocks, went out for drinks because there's always time for beer.
I dedicate this post to everyone who is graduating this year. Congratulations class of 2013. University education is an uphill run but you got there eventually. Be proud in remembrance of all you've managed to achieve and hopeful as you look to the future. I hope that it holds great things for you.