Chapter V: Graduation Day
It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. The sky was blue, the air was warm, and the birds were chirping like there was something big about to happen. The garage was a bit empty with a dozen cars littered here and there. Nearby a stocky police officer stood at the corner of an intersection, directing cars of lost souls looking for a place to park...
... And there I stood at the East Campus garage alone, waiting for my good Exercise Physiology buddy to arrive. I was armed and dangerous with my academic attire (my "Harry Potter" gown, the cap and tassle, my cords and stole), my cell phone, and my camera. Here and there, I saw people who I haven't seen in years walking towards the shuttle area. I could tell from their smiles, chit-chat with their parents and friends, and their proudly worn cap and gown that they were extremely excited. I looked around East Campus and I told myself, "Dang, I'm probably never going to step foot on East ever again." At that point, all the memories of Exercise Physiology II Labs, workout sessions with my friends, basketball, and a pool tournament filled my head.
Finally, my friend arrived, and we walked towards the shuttle area. In the shuttle, we both caught ourselves saying the infamous group of words that seems to come out of our mouths a-billzion times: "I can't believe we did it. How come it doesn't feel like the end yet? Dang, it feels like we have another semester left!" Oh, at that point I got sick of those words (even if I knew I might splat it out of my mouth days after graduation). Well what can we do? We're done. Our four years is finally over. We have to believe it. In my head, I said, "Dang, I'm going to cross that stage and this major chapter of my life is over."
We arrived at the Tsongas Arena to a crowd of black-bodied people who look just like us... the caps, the gowns, the cords, the stoles, and the smiles. We definitely felt the excitement suffocating the air around us and I can tell you that it was a great thing. My friend and I walked towards two gigantic tents filled with graduates. Fortunately, the great UML staff organized the tent into "schools" so it easily found those familar faces of the Exercise Physiology program. From that point on, we went on a photo hunt. Everyone tried their best to get a photo of each other, while trying to sustain a conversation. That wasn't too hard (ha).
Here are a few pictures:
Walking into the Tsongas arena was probably the second (or third) best thing of the day. When we all poked our heads out of the tunnel and into the open, all we could see was a sea of proud families and friends. Honestly, it was the first time I saw the Arena completely filled to max capacity. We all had that warm feeling inside when we saw our loved ones in the crowd. All I could think at that point is my parents and siblings. Without them, I wouldn't be walking across the stage... They made sacrifices to help me succeed in college and I love them for that and many other things.
After getting everyone (2,000 graduates) in the Arena, the Commencement Exercises begun. The Sheriff of Middlesex County gave a loud, well presented opening to our graduation. Heck, I can't even explain in words on how he opened the event. I guess you had to be there to understand (Ha). Out of all the speeches I heard, Abbey Denaro, my good friend and a fellow Exercise Physiology student had the best speech. It is such a great speech that I plan on dedicating a future blog post on it (STAY TUNED). I actually recorded the speech and I will post it on that blog also.
Obviously, our commencement speaker, Harold Ford, Jr. who is the Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council and a former Tennessee Congressman also had a great speech! Before he went on stage, we all saw him writing notes. We were all amazed at his ability take in what other speakers have said and sneak it into his speech. He mention parts of Abbey's speech many times. You can watch it here: Ford Commencement Speech.
Then it was finally time. After 4 years of waiting, our time finally came: Walk the stage to a new chapter. Little by little (when I say little, I say a group of hundred or more) students lined up to cross the stage to receive their degree holder. My EP buddies and I waited (a bit inpatiently) for our chance to walk the stage. It got to a point that some of us had the idea to sneak into the earlier lines... but we were too good and nice to do that!! I think it was a good 45 minutes wait before we had our shot to line up to "cross." Waiting in line, I could see the smiles on my family's faces. I knew they were proud of me of my accomplishments of UML.
A few minutes before my turn to walk, my best friends from the major crossed the stage. I was so happy for them. At that point, I thought about our hard study sessions for classes, our times in the commuter room and at Weed Hall, playing basketball at the Rec Center, and eating out. Before I got into a deep thought, it was my turn to walk. I gave my name card to the name caller, turned and walked. To tell you the truth, I was a bit nervous of falling than the namer caller not pronouncing my name correctly! I walked in a fast pace across the stage, gently received my degree holder from one of the deans, shook his hand, walked to the other end to shake Chancellor Meehan's hand, and stepped off the stage. It was probably a ten second thing, but it felt like a lifetime. It was like a slow motion 4 mile walk across stage. In my head, I was definitely taking in everything. My four years was over after walking off the stage. When I got back to my seat, I was greeted with hugs and handshakes. Oh, I can't explain the feeling of being done and graduating. Excited and happy are EXTREMELY weak words for that feeling.
After waiting for 1,000 more people to graduate, the commencement was over. I was very surprised that only a handful of caps were thrown in the air. I heard from many people that we weren't allowed to throw our caps in the air... it didn't stop the few of us who did.
I will never forget that day in my life. It was the day when a journey ends and another one begins. It was the day when my Exercise Physiology buddies were together in a group for one last time. I can tell you that I'm going to miss my buddies...
I'm going to leave you, the reader, a few more pictures of that day...
- Christian EP '09