I am not graduating.
That is, I’m not walking at the graduation ceremony. It makes announcements and invitations difficult; the presumption is that people will go to a ceremony. But I decided over a year ago that I did not want to.
There are a couple reasons. First is just the ceremony itself. I’ve seen one at my university – a several hour ordeal with you and your several hundred closest friends. I don’t want to put other people through that. Hell, I don’t want to put myself through that, now that I know what it’s like. Unlike my high school graduation, I don’t know much of anyone else graduating. When my wife graduated, she was part of a continual stream of people walking past. It wasn’t even a minute in the sun – just a second or two.
Secondly, it’s now eighteen years since I first started an undergraduate degree. Sure, some time in the military helps explain that, but it seems rather… long.
While I was at PLDC (an Army leadership course), I had to do the land navigation course several times in order to pass. When I returned to the barracks, I happily announced that I had passed.
“What do you want, congratulations?” one of my squadmates said. “Praise that it took you three tries for something you should have gotten right the first time?”
Yeah, it feels like that.
Unlike most of the other graduates, this is not a life change for me. I am already employed, and that will not suddenly change on graduation. Grad school is a summer away – a summer of the normal routine, not a summer of relaxation.
But mostly, it’s because of the prom.
Prom and graduation are often spoken of in the same hushed tones. “You’ll regret not going,” I was told. “Don’t you feel bad that you didn’t go?” I’m asked now.
Dances were some of my most miserable times growing up – to the point where I stopped going by the end of the tenth grade. I was a socially inept geek, pudgy, desperate, and insecure. The social circles I ended up fitting in with didn’t go to dances either. I would usually end up disappointed and feeling more alone than ever. The few short times that I had a girlfriend during high school did not overlap with prom at all. Being single and with my memories of other dances meant that I never seriously considered going to prom.
Part of me thinks about the typical ending of the Mouse’s movies. What was supposed to happen, of course, was that I would reluctantly go. While there, I would unexpectedly find myself having fun, find the girl who had the secret crush on me, and finally be accepted.
That’s because the Mouse’s movies lie.
In reality – especially since my social circles still did not go to dances, and few of my friends were in my class anyway – it would have been like every other dance.
There’s a part of me that says that this graduation will be different. That I’ll finally be accepted, feel special, and everything will fade into a chorus of easy listening music. But there’s no reason to really expect that.
Instead, I’d rather be spending my day drinking and discussing things geeky and academic with my friends. There is every reason to expect that to happen as imagined.