Today was my college graduation and instead of attending, I’m at work writing about it—much to the chagrin of my poor mother, who has now had two children finish college with not one graduation ceremony to cry at. According to a very informal survey I just took, about a quarter to half of college grads don’t attend their own graduations, so I’m in good company, or at least copious company. I’m sure reasons not to attend all vary, but I would imagine the only real reason to attend is to please the parents. This means either my mom wasn’t pushy enough, or I’m a pretty terrible daughter.
Of course, my decision to not attend commencement was adamant, and of course, now that my entire Facebook feed erupting with pictures of my friends in their caps and gowns, I’m experiencing incredible FOMO– even though rationally I know how bored they all actually are right now, at least according to the texts I’ve been getting. But in spite of the absolute certainty that led me to decide against attending, emotionally I wonder if I’ll regret skipping out on what is one of those major milestones in life. It’s too soon to tell how I’ll feel once the Facebook feed dies down and returns to its normal host of banalities and BuzzFeed articles. In the meantime, I’m just avoiding checking out Facebook, which is throwing me off my habitual procrastination routine. (Switch to Internet server, command+T, type in letter F, press Enter, see Facebook. Those steps are so ingrained I don’t even realize I’m doing it until the newsfeed is in front of me and I’m assailed by cap and gown pictures again.)
My own reasons not to attend commencement were multifold. For starters, I graduated in January. This meant my options were to walk last May or this May, seven months before or five months after I was actually finished classes. If I walked last year, I reasoned, I would have been completely unmotivated to go to classes for another semester after having been handed a (blank) diploma. Of course, seeing as I got married in my last semester and also didn’t care much for college by then, I wasn’t all that motivated anyway. Walking months after finished felt equally silly. Though it’s been less than half a year since I walked out of my college building for the last time, it feels like ages ago that I was a college student (this, too, might have something to do with my utter lack of interest in school by the end). I’ve already caught myself saying things like “those college students” in a condescending tone, as if I’m so vastly beyond that.
In addition to those practical reasons, and the I-would-have-been-bored-silly thing, and the I’m-a-bad-daughter thing, there was a very emotional reason not to attend graduation: I kind of have a love-hate relationship with my alma mater. And by love-hate I mean I love to hate it. You see, I had a few run-ins with my school administration, none of them all too pleasant. There was the time I was on probation with a few friends for breaking a pretty blatant school rule; the time I caused an international media scandal with the newspaper I started there (oops); and the time I didn’t finish all my finals in my last semester because I went on a honeymoon instead. I briefly worried that they wouldn’t let me graduate but assuaged my fears with the realization that of all their students, they probably want me gone fastest. (I recently checked my transcript to make certain, and there it was: Degree Date: January 31, 2013. I was fairly relieved to see that, though I won’t fully believe it until the diploma is in my hand. And considering my school’s general tardiness with that, that won’t happen for quite a few more months.) About halfway through college I realized I had made a mistake about which college I chose to attend, but at that point I felt it was too late to switch. So I finished out my sentence with a sense of doing my time.
In all, my feelings of finishing school were more one of utter joy at being done with it all than pride of accomplishment. It’s sad to say, but graduating college simply isn’t as big a deal as it might be to some other people. It’s always something I expected to do, something everyone in my social strata has done or will do. Celebrating something you were always expected to do seems a bit frivolous (not that I’m ever one to refuse a celebration, but commencement is more of a task than a party). Thus, attending my commencement ceremony would be voluntarily submitting myself to a school event featuring a long series of lectures—the very thing I was so eager to be done with. And it wouldn’t feel like a true college lecture if I didn’t have my laptop out with Facebook open. Perhaps if college had been a more meaningful experience for me, if I had gotten my degree for any reason other than to have one under my belt, I would feel connected to the ceremony, but as it is I’m just glad to have the whole experience behind me.
Don’t get me wrong—I had some great times in college. I made friends with some of the most incredible people I’ve known, and I had my own personal journeys. But I can and will celebrate those highlights with a party they deserve. If I send my mom pictures from that, they might even make her cry.