About a year ago, I was publicly snarking on my parents and their insistence I attend my grad ceremonies. How passe, I intoned. How overdone. How symbolic of a culture that SNORE whatever, moving on.
However. Like in many things, I was wrong. Grad ceremonies are kind of bad-ass. My sister graduated from Queen's University, a school whose reputation for academic excellence is matched only by its reputation for being fancily Caucasian. She now proudly wears an iron ring, a symbol of engineers, and her peers are diligently working on sucking all the remaining oil from Alberta's crust. My sister, because she is crazy, doubled up her engineering degree with an art history degree, leaving no question about who the smart daughter turned out to be - it's her. With a bullet.
Graduations are important because they mark the last time that getting up at noon requires setting an alarm...unless you plan on becoming an indolent writer-person. (Ahem.) They're important because they mark the first time you'll feel sort of like a loser when you say, "I'm an English major," because not anymore, you're not. They're important because they mark a time in your life when you've actually worked hard, gotten passing marks, and earned your way. I went to my high school graduation, which was great because I after I left Stratford I dyed my hair brown, lost twenty pounds and learned how to drink; I was unrecognizable. At my university graduation, I was fat, blonde, and relatively sober. Who wants to celebrate that?
No, I'm kidding. I didn't go to mine because it would have been fake. I limped towards my degree, which, I think, happens to a lot of people in their early twenties for whom their education is sort of secondary to tying to get their Shit Sorted Out. In my last year of university, I wasn't sitting thoughtfully in lecture halls, taking notes on Joseph Andrews and offering witticisms that relied on punning a 17th-century euphemism for penis. I was sitting in a room in CAMH, talking about how big a serving size is (smaller than you think) and how much I was drinking (more than I should have). I was getting my Shit Worked Out. And that took so much mental energy that I couldn't really get my act together to hand in essays about Shamela. Sorry. But as it turned out, going group therapy sessions allowed me to survive my final year, so I feel like the emphasis on all the academic stuff was sort of...well, there's always an excuse, right?
But my sister! Oh man. Okay, so: she not only got sick and had to take time off school, she switched programs, fell in love, and she fuckin' aced it. Sure, there were bumps along the way. But she's a smart cookie and a tough gal, and she came roaring back to the school she loved and the program she felt proud to be a part of, and she sailed over the finish line like she was racing a yacht.
So, dear sister: congratulations on your graduation, on your impending freak out about "what does it all mean?" a la Rob Gordon/High Fidelity, and I know that you charm, dedication, stick-to-it-iveness and talent will bring you success in your professional life - or your academic life, should there be a sequel (Queens II: The Iron Schwing!, also known as "getting your masters"). I love you dearly, and not only because I'll be asking off-topic questions about, like, the construction of bridges and if they're sturdy. But because you inspire me: you've shown me what a little hard work and dedication can do, which is a whole damned lot.