Friday, May 18, 2012

Commencement - a beginning or start

So, that's my natural hair color!
The word commencement is an odd one. While it is defined as a beginning or start, it clearly is most often used to describe a ceremony which acknowledges the end of something.  Seems that endings and beginnings can get all sorts of mixed up, huh?

Almost exactly  20 years ago, I received my college diploma. The path I took to that mass commencement ceremony was circuitous and prolonged. Or so it seemed to my-then-25- year-old self.  I remember that the morning was beautiful; a perfect May Day with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. The graduation was my first since my 8th grade commencement in 1980  - they didn't give GEDs with an iota of pomp, regardless of circumstance.

I wished I was feeling a bit more triumphant about my achievement, but I was nursing a broken heart and was just desperate to get the whole thing over with.   My plan had been to avoid the entire day by going to Syracuse for my brother's awe inspiring graduation from medical school, an event which naturally was scheduled for precisely the same day.  One of my best friends, though, had timed a trip to New York from Australia  to witness my achievement (with binoculars in the vast feeling Knickerbocker Arena) and so, there I was in a sea of fellow B.A., English, recipients.

Honestly, the entire thing is a blur now.  I don't recall who was the speaker or what the message conveyed was.  I just remember itching to get out of there.  Now.  I needed to go home, to Greenwood Lake.  I needed to get out of Dodge and see something new.  I needed what was NEXT.  I wanted to commence already, dammit.   I had a sense of freedom similar to possessing a passport and a credit card.  I could go anywhere.  And, unlike my bruised heart, no one was ever going to take that away from me.

The following month, my brother and I traveled to Europe for 3 weeks of debauchery family visits and sightseeing. We hitchhiked, staying with family, friends and in hostels, both of us smart enough to recognize that this opportunity to travel together would probably not present itself ever again. I returned to Albany with an increased awareness of where my family was from, and a pocketful of fresh memories to cherish as I began the next chapter in my life. 

In the two decades since graduation, there have been other heartbreaks survived, additional diplomas bestowed and numerous European adventures.  And, of course, countless endings and beginnings. I've come to learn that, unlike my sheepskin, some things just aren't meant to last forever.  Some courses are finite, pass or fail.


  1. Hi, Silvia: If it was May '92, I didn't attend the ceremony but had a little celebration with family and friends. I can't get over how closely we traveled blind to each other until now Great post. It's clear you've had quite a life. More to come, girlie!

  2. Oh, I've got stories, Mary...