Graduation day has finally arrived. What took years to achieve has already begun fading into the memory of, “It doesn’t seem that long ago…”
I began my college education later in life than most and the years between high school and attending college were filled with the daily activities of a military career. Eighteen years after graduating high school I took my first, full-length, college course. In 2007, twenty-one years after obtaining my high school diploma, I received my associate’s degree. I remember as if it were yesterday receiving my degree in the mail. It doesn’t seem that long ago.
I did not cross the stage in a graduation ceremony for high school. I felt lucky to have been able to survive to see the day happen. The days of my youth were pretty wild and there are times when I shake my head as I remember some of the stunts I pulled. How I made it through adolescence without killing myself remains a mystery to me.
When I received my associate’s degree, I also did not attend a ceremony. I knew that degree was just the beginning. The same occurred in 2010 when I completed my bachelor’s degree. There was still more academic instruction to go so why cross a stage? I wasn’t finished, yet.
Last year about this time I wrote a post about nearing the final graduation day:
This is the time of year when graduation ceremonies occur and my University is no different. Recently I have been watching some of my fellow students post their graduation pictures on social media sites. While I am sincerely happy for their accomplishment I realize I’m glad that isn’t me. The truth of the matter is I am not ready…yet. For the past year I have been accruing academic knowledge of the counseling profession, the theories, techniques, and subject areas, and have counseled several clients using mostly basic listening skills and Roger’s client-centered theory. So far so good, but in reality, I am still a rookie.
As I look back over the year between the previous post and this one, I realize I have grown considerably. The lengthy practicum and internship phase of my program paid off as I am now more confident in my abilities as a counselor. As an experiential learner, the extra six months it took to graduate as a result of my decision to break my 600 hour internship into two 300 hour semesters, was key to my development as a mental health counselor.
Normally I tend to shy away from displays of public achievement. Perhaps it was the forced attendance in such events required by military service. There seemed to be no shortage of award ceremonies, promotions, change-of-commands, retirements, and yes, funerals. When I neared retirement my goal was simply to slip away, unnoticed. My wife had other ideas. “The ceremony is not for you. It is for those who love you,” she said. She was, of course, right. My mother and sister attended along with in-laws, children, step-children and friends that are actually closer than family. My military retirement ceremony was for them.
I felt the same about walking for my graduation ceremony. “They’ll just mail it to me,” I said. After a brief discussion with the wife I walked across the stage for my master’s degree.
I walked because it ritually signified the end of my academic pursuit. Walking across the stage served as a rite of passage. I walked because it brought closure to one phase of knowledge and held open the door of transition to the next phase. But most importantly, I walked across the stage because my wife wanted to see her husband graduate.
And that’s all the reason I needed.