The week of last things is halfway up. On Monday, there was the last round of finals. On Tuesday, there was the last frantic checking of final grades on Web Advisor. Today I started my last move-home efforts. Tonight is also the last Goose Wednesday, but I’m going to pass on that one in favor of writing one last long blog post. I’ve turned in my library books, picked up my cap and gown, and helped Stefan throw a lot of his unwanted belongings off the balcony. I’ve got three days left at C of I before I walk across the Boone steps.
I’m looking forward to graduation. I think the way C of I does our ceremony makes it a meaningful experience, rather than a tedious going through of motions. I remember being at last year’s graduation, and thinking what a perfect expression of gratitude and optimism our procession to and from the quad is. If you’ve never been to a C of I graduation, what happens at the beginning is this: the graduates proceed down to main walkway, under the trees. But then the line of students split. We line the sides of the walkway, and we applaud our professors as they walk down the aisle between us. That’s the gratitude part. At the end, after we all have diplomas in hand, we proceed back down the same walkway. But this time, our professors line the sides of the aisle, and they applaud us. That’s the optimism part.
The administration has officially announced that graduation it will be outside, rain or shine, so I can stop worrying about having it moved to the gym, and start worrying about whether Sue is coming or not so that I can applaud her.
But I really do find our mirrored processional and recessional the most meaningful part of graduation, and gratitude and optimism are what I’m striving for in these last few days.
It’s easy to be grateful, and to be grateful in so many ways and to so many people. There’s the institutional gratitude that I’ve heard so many of my friends express in the last couple of days, where we name The College of Idaho as the entity that we love, and that has given us such a good ride. I don’t know how many facebook posts I saw on Tuesday, exclaiming over how fast four years go by at a place like this. When we say The College of Idaho, we seem to be thinking simultaneously of the hardest class we ever took, every single theme party ever, every friend made, every cramped dorm room, every heavy textbook, and the most mind-blowing discussion we ever had in class. And somehow it comes out into this dynamic experience that we only attempt to articulate by thanking the College as an institution.
But then there’s gratitude on a personal level. There are people we can go back and pick out, and say, “You. You there. You changed my life. You shaped it. You matter to me.” Each person has their own set. Mine include my parents, who gave me space and support, whether I was in Caldwell or Belfast. And Dannen, whom I think brings out the very funniest and most honest version of me that exists.
Then there are the professors and their courses. There’s Sue, who brought English back to my life. If I hadn’t taken that Art, History, and Literature of London course with Sue, I might not have come to my senses in time to take the Brontë Seminar. Or the Hemingway and Faulkner Seminar. Or the Inventing America Seminar. Or Postcolonial. Or Constructing World Lit. Or all those English courses at Queen’s. On Tuesday, when all my undergraduate work was done forever, I sat down and thought, damn it, I won’t get to formally study English again and there’s so much I don’t know, what have I done why didn’t I take more English courses why am I not getting an English PhD. Then I got it together again, reminded myself that my course of graduate study will put me in proximity with many scholars, hopefully some doing English things, and I also remembered just how many books are out there in the world to be read. But I can’t imagine feeling that way about another discipline, and I am so grateful to have taken the London course when I did.
I’m also grateful to that course, not only for giving my literature, but for nurturing the secret solo traveler in me. Going to London with Sue and Garth and the class after spending a whole semester learning about London, and then having so much independence to explore the city at will impacted the way I approached my time in Belfast. Before leaving for Northern Ireland, I read books and books and watched movies and read newspapers. And when I got there and realized how cheap airfare around Europe was, I felt capable and confident enough to travel willy-nilly by myself.
And then there’s Rochelle, who’s always in my corner. The best example of this was during the summer, when I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to go to Belfast because of a snag with the application of my Heritage Scholarship to the exchange. I got off the phone with the registrar unbelievably upset. But the first thing I did was email Rochelle. I explained the situation, and ended the email with “Please help.” Rochelle responded almost immediately, and said she was about to throw a dinner party, but that she would be on it first thing in the morning. I stopped worrying about it after I knew she was on the case, and the whole thing was resolved by about 11 o’clock the next morning. Rochelle is my go-to, and has been instrumental in helping me continue my education at the graduate level.
Last, but not least, there’s Jan. Jan’s not a professor, nor have I ever gotten course credit for spending time in the archives. But, as one Rahul Sharma put it, “Jan got another one into the racket.” Jan has been my window into the archives, but most importantly, the man is full of stories. I go see Jan just to listen.
These people aren’t the balance of individuals I would need to name, but they’re some of the most important. They’re the ones I’ll applaud on Saturday.
But now on to the part about optimism. This part is harder. I won’t try to speak for all of my friends, because they’re having different experiences. Some of them fly out on Sunday to start jobs in new cities. Some are kickin’ it until they start graduate programs in the fall. Some of them are looking a little lost, furrowing brows and talking about taking some time off to regroup and revaluate.
I belong to that second group, the ones on their way straight into another type of school. There’s certainly some anxiety in that—did I pick the right program, the right field? Will this debt be worth it? Where will I live? Why am I going somewhere so cold with no friends?—but for the most part, I feel confident about the choice I’m making to go straight to graduate school. I sincerely wish I could say that I’ve committed 100% to Simmons or Michigan, but I still haven’t. I mostly learned my lesson about saying “oh, I’m pretty sure,” so I’m trying to be a little more non-committal when people ask me about my plans. Just know that I’ll be at one of them.
So for myself, I do feel optimistic. At the end of the summer, I’ll head to a new place with new people to learn new things. I’ll take my foundation with me, and I’ll grow wherever I plant myself.
I’m also optimistic for my cohort. After living with them for four years, after seeing their capacity and perseverance, I think there’s every reason to say that the horizon is bright. I’m not saying it won’t be a rough and confusing trip towards that horizon, I’m just saying we’ll get there in the end, or we’ll keep trying. That’s what I think the last round of applause at graduation means. I think it says, “You’ve got this.”
From the Village,