Graduation Daze

I am now officially a college graduate. I have my $120,000 piece of paper and everything. I should back up a bit.

Back about three weeks ago, all of my parental units (mom, dad, stepmom) showed up in Chicago, something that’s always a little weird for me. Chicago has always been my zone where I don’t have to deal with them at the same time.

They were really good though (no sniping, as is occasionally the case), and my stepuncle who randomly decided to come was also very, very nice to me. This is the advantage of miraculously completing a college education.

The actual graduation festivities were…well, kind of boring.. There were two main ones, which I refer to as the Big Stadium Hoo-Ha and the Diploma Thingy.

The Big Stadium Hoo-Ha was held on Friday afternoon. Basically, this is where everyone graduating from NU that year gets together in the football stadium to listen to some bigwig make a speech and then technically graduate.

Last year the speaker was Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. I think they realized they couldn’t possibly outdo that this year, and got the former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan who quit to be with her family about a year ago.

She was introduced by the student government president, a woman who apparently has lofty public service aspirations but needs to learn how to speak in public. Her introduction speech went something like:

“This woman…(2 second pause) sets an example…(3 second pause) we should…(2 second pause) all consider…” and so on for about 15 minutes. I was sitting there thinking, “Just spit it out, goddamn it!”

I’m sure nerves had something to do with it, since she was speaking to about 15,000 people, but people I know who have been forced to listen to her give speeches at ASG meetings assured me that this was not out of the ordinary.

The main speaker’s actual speech was fairly mundane. The usual go with your heart, serve your country, serve anything higher than yourself type thing. She seemed like a nice lady, but other than being a Northwestern alum, there really wasn’t much reason to have her as a speaker.

Then we had the President of the University tell us to stand up by school (Communication, Arts and Sciences, Tech, etc.) and then babbled and told us we were graduated, and to please be seated.

It reminded me of the episode of the Cosby Show where Theo graduates from college, and the same thing happens, and it pisses Cliff off, so he starts standing up and sitting down. “Oh look, I got my masters! Now I’ve gone to Law School!”

The best part was when my group graduated. I graduated from the School of Communication, which until a year ago, was the School of Speech, a name change that caused some acrimony within the school.

Basically, the issue was that the University spent a shitload of money “re-branding” the School when it could have spent it on, you know, good Professors, and that the name change was bullshit by this point anyway, since the change would have been revolutionary in 1970, but at this point it’s just kind of silly.

So every time the President of the University said “School of Communication” a bunch of us shouted “Speech!” So his awarding of the diplomas sounded something like:

“The Dean of the School of Communication (Speech!) has presented these candidates for degrees from the School of Communication (Speech!). I find these candidates to be worthy and hereby confer upon them the degrees in Communciation (SPEECH!) for which they have been presented.”

Okay, so it was a lot funnier to me than it is to you. Fuck you, I enjoyed shouting down the Dean, whom I’ve got a laundry list of problems with that I shan’t get into here. It was quite fun though.

Anyway, after that I went back to my apartment and had a big barbecue for everyone who hadn’t gotten around to making dinner reservations, which turned out to be quite a few more people than I initially thought.

People even ate all the veggie burgers. Veggie burgers! They taste like cardboard!

It was really fun, and I was really glad people’s parents got a chance to meet. I’m always fascinated by parents meeting each other for the first time, and seeing how both similar and different the kids and the parents are.

One of my summer subletters showed up during the BBQ and had the entertaining time of both meeting everyone’s parents and then after the parents left, seeing what a bunch of freaks we all are when we’re drunk and mocking people.

Fortunately, he’s an awesome guy and told me we didn’t frighten him so much as remind him of his friends at his college, so all was well.

The next day was the Diploma Thingy, which was significantly smaller, being just the “arts” half of the School of Communication (Speech!): Radio/TV/Film (me), Theater, Dance, and “Interdepartmental Studies.”

The speaker there said pretty much the same thing as the speaker at the Stadium Hoo-Ha, though she did relate a story about missing her NU graduation because she was in the hospital with appendicitis. My scar itched when she talked about this, but it gave me and my family an unintended laugh.

I went up with the herd and got my diploma, waving to my parents in the balcony. I felt free when the Dean handed me my diploma. I felt like four years of work had finally fucking paid off, screw getting a job, I know I have my diploma, and no shitty economy can take that away from me.

I couldn’t contain how glad I was to finally be done, even when I realized the diploma is the most expensive thing I’ll own until I buy a house.

The weekend outside of the graduation festivities was nice. I got lots of good free food from Costa’s (really great Greek place), Pete Miller’s (mmm….steak), and all sorts of other assorted establishments via my folks.

It was good to see everyone, since I don’t really go home anymore except for the holidays. Which is fine with me, because I feel a little bit better dealing with my parents on my stomping grounds because I feel at least a little more in control.

Having finished classes six months ago, officially graduating was a nice little coda. I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been on an extended summer vacation since I finished, mostly because I’ve been fucking around and/or having surgery for six months.

I hadn’t really felt like I was officially done with college until now, which is why I think I waited to decide that I’m moving to L.A. (more on that to come in a later post, I’m really getting tired and I have to work tomorrow).

I think I felt like until I got my diploma, I was free to fuck around, but now that I have it, it’s time to move on. I’m free from school for at least the next couple of years (I am eventually going to have to get a masters in something or other), but I need to start my adult life.

It’s been a nice little ending, and now I’m tying up my loose ends, and getting ready to start Phase Two of my life on my own: Post-Collegiate Silliness, California Style.

This is gonna be fun.

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