Eventually, I will get tired of saying that.
One day, I am going to look back at the events of my Convocation yesterday and laugh, or use it to make someone else feel better about their own or other embarrassing experiences, or–really–just to remember the time fondly.
The title of this post is the exact opposite to what I felt yesterday. My family and I arrived at the Rexall Centre with seemingly little time to spare for me to figure out where to get my robe and hood. It was raining outside. In order to get to the robe and hood fitting section, the graduates had to walk through said rain up various stair and enclosures to get to a room and stand in a line for a while. If there is one thing that York is good at being, it is definitely being labyrinthine and liking its lines a lot.
The line went relatively quickly and we managed to find our sections. There was a very nice volunteer there that helped us put on the white and red hoods on our robes properly. And we waited there for over an hour and a half. I talked with some people I never met before about what they did in their Programs. I feel a little of two minds on that subject. I mean, I can understand getting really sick of people asking you what you do in your Program and what your work was. I mean, you spent all that time on it and energy–perhaps even sacrificed a fair amount–and your Graduation comes and you just want to think about that and then get on with life. You can get sick of it really fast. On the other hand, you did spend a lot of time on your Graduate work presumably because you were interested in it–perhaps even believe in it–and when you’re in a line for a really long time with people that have done similar or different studies in what is a relatively solitary understanding, you do get curious and it can definitely make for good conversation.
We were finally led in and I was hoping that now the hard part was over and the rest would just be sitting back, listening to speeches, then shaking hands, photographs, and then the end.
Of course, that was not what happened: at least not for me.
In the meantime, there was the other side of the equation: my girlfriend and my family. I had only been allowed to pre-order three guest tickets, so if they wanted any more they would have to basically wait outside directly before the ceremony to get more. My aunt wanted to attend along with my grandmother and her helper. To compound matters my Dad misplaced his cellphone before we left and needed to use my Mom’s. They had also meet my girlfriend who was making her own way to the Centre.
All that apparently went well. They even got a special guest status for my grandmother who needed it for her and her helper. But then something happened. The ceremony apparently started earlier than was advertised and people were not allowed back into the guest tent. This included my family who were in the process of doing the telemetry to have everyone there. They were told that they couldn’t come back in and were obviously rather pissed off about that: and they were not the only ones.
However, they told me later that at intermission they were let back in and hadn’t missed anything. Someone very nice apparently realized just how angry people locked out of their own loved ones’ Convocation ceremony might be and dealt with it.
For my own part, I couldn’t see any of them from where I was sitting: though I did manage to see the resigned and chagrined expression on my face as the big screen in the tent caught me and my fellow graduates. It had been an interesting procession to the tent. Actual bagpipes were being played along the way and the sun came out. As a result of course, it had become quite hot and muggy and I was wearing a sweatshirt under my robes. But the tent had air-conditioning.
So we were sitting on stage and listened to a few speeches. The one that stood out for me the most was by the Honoris Causa recipient and the host of CBC’s Radio One Sunday Edition Michael Enright. He essentially addressed us directly and offered many words of advice: including learning how to drive a motorcycle.
All was relatively fine and underway until the Dean’s speech. And I had to go to the restroom.
That was fun. I have to tell you: moving those robes around after they are perfectly fitted–especially the hood–is a whole other kind of fun that it is not: especially when you consider that the zipper on my robes came apart and I had to adjust it.
But that was all right. I managed to get out and then back into the ceremony. I remembered my Undergrad Convocation we were lined up in Vari Hall and I had to go to the restroom: only to come back and find out that they had all left without me. This time though was even better because, of course, it wasn’t that long after I decided to leave that my row had been called up to the Chancellor, President, and Dean.
Essentially, I missed going on stage, and almost missed my whole Convocation.
I came back and found that my seat had been taken and I sat at the end of the row fiddling around with the paper I was supposed to present to the announcer, watching the Undergraduates go onto the stage and thinking about how my family would not get to see me on stage, how I’d not get my photograph taken, how I’d wasted a whole load of money just to miss my own Convocation, wondering if I should just leave at that point, wondering why I even bothered to come here, and overall feeling a tremendous amount of despair. Not one of my best moments.
Luckily, after an agonizing long time of watching the upper rows of Undergraduates come down, I managed to show an organizer my paper (while not getting anyone’s attention which is no mean feat considering how I was on a stage with people filming us like the perfect paragons of educational virtue we were supposed to look like) and–being the very nice lady that she was–fit me in at the very end. I was also very pleased that throughout all this ridiculous stress that my stomach had not decided to betray me again.
My family tells me that I managed to get all the applause, being the last person on the stage, but I barely even noticed. I was tired, hot, most likely dehydrated, and I just wanted this spectacle over with. At the same time, it felt nice to stride on there and tell Michael Enright that he made an excellent speech: to which replied something to the effect of “this your day” or “you made it.” I don’t actually remember, but he was nice. Then I shook hands with the Chancellor (I got to actually greet someone as “Chancellor,” which is a favourite word of mine for various reasons), the President of the University, and the Dean and I got my picture taken and then eventually we all left in a procession in which we were lead in circles throughout the building and then abandoned outside the guest pavilion for everything to become a barely organized chaos of parents, families, and camera-taking everywhere.
It took me a long time to find everyone: what with my Dad not having his phone and waiting for my Mom and my girlfriend to text me back. I finally went into the guest tent: wanting at this point to just go the hell home, as it were. Everyone wondered why I was the last person to be called and almost everyone found the very anticlimactic reason behind it pretty damned funny.
My Dad had to take my grandmother and my aunt back, so after going through another winding journey I gave back my sweaty robes and got my piece of cardboard with the excellent words “Magisteriate of Arts” below my name. At some point my girlfriend realized that I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day and got me some iced tea, and she and my Mom–when we found each other yet again (getting lost was a running theme for this Convocation, yes that was an unintentional pun) we were going to wait for my Dad to pick us up in an insane spot that used to be the place where we were all dropped off to begin with. It was filled with more cars and buses for the next ceremony.
At that point, my Dad managed to gain access to a phone and I had a plan. I decided we were going to go for a walk: from the Rexall Centre all the way to Vanier College. It would be far less crowded there and easier for my Dad to come in. I also recognized the area we were at: having lived close-by back when I was on residence.
So my Mom, my girlfriend, and I walked for twenty minutes through the sun, past Tate Mackenzie, past the Office building all the way to McLaughlin and then finally Vanier. As we passed, I saw people playing tennis, walking around, even measuring a tree, and just talking and walking. It was just another day at York for them. I suspect a few were even summer school students. By the time we came to Vanier, I was thinking of all the times I had and didn’t have at York. I was thinking of how beautiful the campus became in the summer and of all the clubs and friends here that would meet throughout the year.
And then it occurred to me. This is one of the last times I’m going to be here. Again, I thought all the things happened and didn’t happen to me on this campus and I thought about my Graduation earlier on that day and how it isn’t every day that one graduates from their first Master’s Program: from their only one. I realized it was a special day and one I would not see again. I’m not going try for another Master’s or PhD–at least not for a long time–and so much has already changed in my life these past four years. What should have supposedly been a one or two year program became a four year odyssey. Sometimes it felt lonely and empty. Many times I wondered why I did this to myself. The sun felt just as bright and warm as it did when I got my first apartment at York, like when the Sakura trees began to blossom after my Japanese class ended in song, and all the adventures I had downtown.
That sun would be that way for someone else now, and maybe it had been for someone else: just like it will for the future me. I don’t think these thoughts are really unexpected or even unwarranted given the event of significance that happened yesterday. It was an exhausting, sometimes very frustrating day but it also had its grace, its moments of good karma, and its place of transformation. I remember sitting on a bench outside Vanier and thinking to myself that once I’d skipped a class to write a paper on Children’s Literature there: back when I wrote papers by hand.
You know, despite or because of all the events that happened yesterday, I’m glad I went to my Convocation. I’m glad I had my moment. And as for what happens after, as many people have been asking me incessantly, I don’t know. But I do know that I have–and I will–be facing it.
As a Master.