Sure, I go to the local community college, but bear in mind that this is the largest school in the area hosting to 11,000+ students every semester. Granted, that is total population of the students and not all of them graduate. However, let's say about 20% of them end up making it all the way through. Now out of that significantly smaller number, only about 70% of the students actually paticipate in the optional ceremony. So 70% of the 20% of 11,000+ people is still a pretty sizable number. When you count at least one, on average 2 people per person attending to watch their loved ones walk, you get a pretty nice-sized crowd working up. I thought the hard part would be walking in front of them, but no, it wasn't.
Because of the crowds, my family decided to be extra prudent and arrive early. Now the ceremony began at 6:00 in the evening, but all students needed to be there at 5:00 for lining up and passing out of index cards with our names on it. With me actually getting my act together for once, I got there around 3:30. I thought it would be open early because, heck, about 2,000 people coming in needing papers is a lot of work for a few volunteer table workers.
I went up to the doors, but they were locked. I checked every door down the side of the building and they were all locked. I thought "Oh, maybe they aren't open yet." Then something struck me, I was by myself. Thinking there should be a crowd, I looked around and saw some joggers and people with moving boxes. This would be the perfect time to mention that the ceremony was not on my campus, but at a nearby college's campus that I hadn't step foot on in years. I checked the building's name and sure enough it was where I was supposed to be at, so I waited.
A random girl walked up in a gown and said "Hey, so you must be here for the graduation too." Figuring this would be a good time to test my social skills as I need them for the real world, I struck up some awful small talk with her. From what I can gather, she was a band nerd at her high school. She kept her cell phone in the band uniform's helmet. She did not like metal stands that were high in the air. Oddly enough 90% of her conversation was about high school and not college. My high school years I am partially ashamed of, so I don't mention them a lot to strangers. That, and my conversation would have sounded awfly like what she was telling me. I'm graduating from college, not high school band nerd camp, dangit.
After conversing with her about the proper marching tactic with an instrument, a thought occured to me. Maybe the building has more than one set of doors. Wait, it DOES have at least one more set of doors. Then guess what. Take a freaking guess. It started to rain. Now this wasn't the kind where you could get away with running your guts out and expecting to dry off in an hour. This was the "wish this were a wet t-shirt contest instead" kind of rain. So I did the rational thing a person would do in this situation. I stayed where I was with band camp girl. Then an asian girl with a laptop walked by the doors. I smooshed my hands and face against the glass window and begged her to let us in. She gave me the look of a deranged homeless person and walked by no less than three times. Never let us in.
This was now 4:00. I had spent half an hour under an awning with the band camp girl. Finally, some basketball guys from the campus said, "Would you like in?" and let us in. I don't normally say this, but THANK GOODNESS for jocks who practice like nuts during the offseason. I thought they were going to give me a wedgie, but they were all cool and nice about it. The asian chick was sitting next to the wall no doubt checking her Facebook. I gave her the ol' anime tug down your eyelid and stick out your tongue maneuver. Hey, if I'm going to start burning bridges, might as well start with that.
The two of us sat down and watched the volunteers work like ants for us. It looked like a thankless job that just gets more and more stressful as more students pile in. Thank goodness I was there early to watch them talk about not unlocking the doors until 4:30. Then they saw us inside. We found a hole in your security, bub. Face it. After they "unlocked" the doors, I noticed that they never opened the ones I was standing in front of. I would have been doomed if it wern't for the overenthusiastic basketball jocks.
Its about 4:20 and I realize I never formally introduced myself to band camp girl who was talking about sign language classes that people seemed to fail at a lot. I know I sound horrible, but I forgot her name. Its totally copesetic though, because she rarely tells people her name because of this one time in high school when a rumor was spread about her and this girl in band....
Screw it. 4:30 hit and I was flying down the stairs to get my ID. I got it, and it had my name and "Associate of Applied Sciences" typed underneath. No mention of Phi Theta Kappa, no mention of the degree I was graduating in. Just "Associate of Applied Sciences". They go at no expense for their students, let me tell you.
After that I got my photo taken because I'm a sucker for punishment. The set was adorned by a single American flag tilted upwards diagonally. I wanted to do my Elvis impersonation, but I decided to be more conservative because I was posing in front of the American flag, so I posed like a Jedi knight. After the photo op was up, I found the first of my CIS party, Vicki, and was introduced to her man. He seemed very pleasant. Band camp girl looms in the background like a serial killer.
So then I got to be in a series of photos with her, which I really enjoyed because I genuinely liked her. That, and the fact that there was no American flag. I tried the Elvis pose, decided it was too stupid, and just went with a cheesy smile. I don't photograph well. After this, the second of the CIS party showed up in the form of Randi, so we got to take more photos together. It really was fun and nice to know that we had some pictures taken that won't suck, well, once you cropped me out of them.
The time is about 4:50 and according to the itenrerary we are supposed to line up around 5:40. Then the fourth member of the CIS party shows up in the form of Sean and more photos are taken. He told us he wasn't going to walk for various reasons, but brought a gown so he could take pictures with us anyways. I thought about attacking him for not going with us, but then I realized that would be defeating the purpose. We said our goodbyes shortly. I'll miss him.
About 5:05 they decided to ignore the itenerary and had us line up. It was kind of hard because here I am, in a gown, with dress slacks, an undershirt, button up shirt, tie, and feeling like a steamed piece of cauliflower, and stood there annoying people for about 30 minutes. It was a long 30 minutes. Very long. I wish I could have brought my iPod, but alas, I was afraid of it going off during the ceremony, so I left it with my sister. I can't tell you how long it felt, but imagine waiting in line Black Friday, only to have it midday on the hottest day of the year with your Sunday best on. That is similar to how it felt. I'm sure my face was turning red. Not from embarrassment, but from heat exhaustion.
Finally the fifth person, but fourth member of the CIS walking troupe came in and got in line with us. Now we were freaking out because we were afraid that we wouldn't be on the same row. You never know how those things turn out.
So we started to walk to the actual stadium, and it was a fairly lengthy indoor walk. It feels long because you're talking to a man who is not used to wearing a gown. I finally ascertained that we were in the gym locker portion of the stadium. I could tell by the smell. There were also bags of laundry sitting there. I think I saw a fly.
So we finally get into the actual stadium, but the instructions were not very clear. We had to walk in there in pairs of two people each. We had to stand behind the person in front of us, and be in front of the person behind us. This is the kind of advice a Technical College gives you. But they really shot themselves in the foot about the pace we were to walk in there with. First its "be quick", then "take your time and enjoy it. You've earned it". Then my partner, bless her heart, was an older lady who was short. And she got partnered with me, the missing link between humans and gorillas. When we got closer, it was "walk fast". When we got in there, it was "WOW, there's a freaking huge gap between the person in front of me" with guys on the side saying "run". This is also trying to be slow enough for my parter who I abandoned a couple of times. Very organized.
Then some guy spoke. Then the choir sang, during which we sang the "Trololo" song, because it sounded similar with all the "La la la la"s in there. The choir also needed more men, so if you are a male who has no taste in graduation music, join the college's choir today! Then they guy introduced another guy who was our keynote speaker. They said the guy was a restaurant owner, but I was later informed by my sister that he actually owns bars or wineries or something. He told us about his lawn mower business when he was a kid. He said his mower died and he had to push it home. It seemed like it should have been motivational, but I really didn't get it. That, and the speaker system was not resonating correctly in my ears.
After that came diploma issuing time, which was actually just handing us an empty leather cover. They said the names so fast that they had everyone accounted for within an hour. Some people snuck on their cards the program they were in, and I thought that was cheating. I considered writing mine in blood, but putting "allied health" or "culinary arts" instead. But no, I didn't. I got my empty folder and walked back to my chair.
The guy spoke again then it was time to go. A couple of weirdos threw their hats in the air, but we actually walked out the way we came in, with a version of pomp and circumstance from a cd that sounded like John Williams band. I started to hum the Star Wars theme in my head. I need a Star Wars marathon sometime. As we walked out, I noticed some guy with a wooden staff. I wondered if he was a mage or something.
We headed out of the building and I prayed to not walk by the locker rooms again, and God thought it would be a good time to bless me and give me an exit with a HUGE incline and a dumpster. I was ok with it, but I felt to the ladies who were wearing high heels. That would have hurt. I was shocked to see is was 7:30. A two and a half hour wait for an hour and a half ceremony.
The team of four CIS students got together and a couple of families and loved ones of the graduates came together to take pictures of the four of us. I better see those on Facebook sometime!
Then I met up with my friends and went to my family's van and waited another 20 minutes to get out of the parking lot, which is a long time for someone trying to cool off and for other people who needed to use the restroom.
We went to a restaurant and went home, and here I am blogging about it. So yeah, my graduation consisted mostly of waiting. Patience is something we have to learn in life, and I have too much patience for some things, and not enough for others. I have been impatient with getting to the point of graduating because of my current circumstances. I have to be even more patient because I can't just run out and get a job just like that. I need to be able to learn how to just take life as it goes.
Waiting was probably tedious, but it was those moments with my friends, getting pictures, me annoying them in line, and the times we shared in and out of class that made the wait a little more tolerable. I'm glad to know the people I graduated today and hope that somehow we can still find time to visit each other once in a while. Life is going to suck a little more without the social interaction with people at college because its hard to find people to talk to about programming in C# to apply changes to a SQL server, or web site development, or people who know about XKCD or Homestar Runner and WANT to talk about them, just to shoot the breeze. People like that don't exist in this little po-dunk town I live in, so I will need to figure something out in that aspect.
But to my friends who I graduated with or that are finally done with college, thank you for the times we spent together, and I sincerely hope you find something that makes you happy in life, whether its workforce related or not. Perhaps we can meet from time to time. I don't mean to get sappy or anything, and I will see some of you for the trip in June, but my life is going to suck just a little bit more without your real world interactions in my life. I'm fine with it in the end because if college has taught me anything, its patience. Both for seeing you again and finding other people who have similar interests.
As long as the similar interests don't include talking about every marching band event you performed in during your high school band career in one sitting.