May 27, 2012

I am a Master, and that is surprisingly overwhelming

I never gave much attention to my own graduation ceremonies.  I didn't go to my undergrad graduation, for instance.  But given that I have spent ~30 (!) years of my life in school, and that this graduation means potentially leaving school forever, and especially since my graduate path has been long, winding, and arduous, I hedged my bets and invited both my parents to the graduation ceremony at MIIS.  I thought this might be a little more serious than other graduations I've experienced.

I had NO IDEA how hard it would hit me. 

I turned in my last paper (the economic impacts of sandmining paper, which our professors want to publish!) at 4:45pm on Friday, the day before commencement. My mom and her beau, Daniel, arrived at 5pm.  We went down to school where we enjoyed snacks and a whole passel of graduates & their parents.  After a lovely dinner at Hula's (our favorite Hawaiian fusion restaurant), we picked up Dad at the airport, dropped him off at the hotel, and headed home.  It was just 10pm but I was exhausted and I had a bit of a meltdown.  

Sobbing on my bed, Ben tried to console me. "There're a lot of happy things too," --but I wasn't crying because I was sad, I was just overwhelmed with the feeling of actually being finished with my graduate degree.  I actually finished it!  I didn't get dismissed.  I actually did super well.  And I completed it.  After the many years preparing in undergrad, after the many years of toil in vet school, after the years struggling in Lexington, after the years of hard work and wonder here in Monterey, I FINISHED.  I knew that I had 3 friends coming to watch the ceremony the next day too, and that overwhelmed me.  All 3--BrieAnn, Thatcher, and Dorothy--met me while I was at vet school in Massachusetts.  They met me as a miserable, desperate, zero-fun-having, insane vet student (at least that's how I felt).  Dorothy, in fact, was at Tufts with me, and even repeated the first year of vet school with me.  She--more than Ben, more than my parents, more than most of my vet school friends, more than anyone else I'm close with--knows exactly the academic hazing hell I went through.  She was there with me every goddamned day, struggling, studying, freezing with me in that terrible place.  It meant so much to me that she was able to come, and wanted to support me in this much better, happier time and place in my life.  As I continued sobbing, Ben said, "it's a lot to take in..." to which I replied, "it's a lot to release!"

Saturday morning, I put on Nana's dress from the 50s (Papa's favorite), ironed and donned my special robe and hood, and headed down to school.  

The rest of the day was inimitably happy.  We lined up, walked behind the bagpiper and carriers of 33 flags representing the countries of all the graduates, and enjoyed the superb speeches given by our classmate Grace, and Myra Goodman (owner of Earthbound organic farm) (We all got her vegan cookbook as a present from her!  Super psyched about that).

 I had collected all the dots from 3-hole punches during my 2 yrs at school here to use as confetti.  I surprised the President of the school with it, and elicited a chuckle from everyone on stage and the first few rows of the audience.

I was so happy throughout the ceremony I just wanted to squeeze the hands of my classmates sitting next to me.  I restrained myself, but, man, was I happy.  

Then I got to go see my family!  And my friends!  I don't know how these photos were shot because I was not patient enough to shoot all the different combinations of people that they wanted to shoot.  I was too distracted with glee.


At the reception, my friend Robert Xia and I did a celebratory piece that we'd been working on in our spare time.  I've been learning pop-n-locking from him, and I've been teaching him bellydancing.  I think it turned out okay, but mostly, we were just having a blast.

We all decided to go for a walk--what a GORGEOUS day it was!  Garrapata was the winning site.  We hiked up the hill and watched for whale spouts (none that day), then made our way down to the tidepools.  

The next couple days visiting with my parents was wonderful too.  They all got along really well (something I was worried about beforehand), and that was a major relief.  It was short, intense (I took them kayaking, driving on 17 mile drive, to the aquarium and to Cachagua general store in Carmel Valley), and excellent.  

Wow.  I have letters after my name.  Alyssum Pohl MAIEP.  Master of Arts in International Environmental Policy.  Happy.  

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