In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself
My heartiest congratulations to the class of 2013, you will no doubt by now have noticed that dissertations and finals all pale into insignificance compared to the stress of having to assemble your family members in the right place at the right time, looking like normal(ish) human beings, and wearing the appropriate clothing, so that they can sit down for two hours and watch you try not to make a tit of yourself for one last time in front of university officials.
But you will no doubt also have noticed that the trials and tribulations of graduating begin long before the day of the ceremony. The people at Ede & Ravenscroft seem to have grossly over-estimated our ability to fill out online forms correctly, or even to know what degree we’ve just done. If they left the choice to us, we’d probably all go for the “which one will make me look most like I go to Hogwarts?” selection process. But alas, we have to pass one final test before we’re allowed to leave and work out what the correct style and colour is – a rather nerve-racking decision because, let’s face it, no-one wants to be the person standing sheepishly in the corner looking like the sodding Archbishop of Canterbury, thinking “I remember the gown and hood, but I definitely don’t recall ordering the sceptre.”
Then the day arrives and the fun really starts as you attempt to shepherd your family to the venue without getting them lost or caught in too much weather, like herding the proverbial felines. Doing your best to not look like you’ve just been dragged through a hedge backwards, you dutifully go to have your formal photograph taken. And you stand there rather uncomfortably as your gown steadily slumps away from your shoulders and you try to look all clever and stuff, whilst also smiling and attempting to hold the rolled-up bit of paper at the prescribed angle. Far from achieving a look of serene enlightenment, most of us actually only manage to look like someone with the intellectual acuity of a baked potato.
Finally, with no small amount of trepidation, we arrive at the ceremony itself. This is supposed to be a moment when we all reflect on our achievements and give ourselves a metaphorical pat on the back. What it actually is is two hours of sitting in a room thinking “for the love of god don’t fall over, don’t fall over” and “why has someone stolen all the oxygen?”, interrupted only by intermittent clapping and the odd flash as someone’s parent accidentally takes a photo of their shoes.
There’s one last thing that no-one warns you about on graduation day, and this is probably more for the women because I don’t imagine it poses such a problem for the men, but going to the toilet whilst wearing your gown is something of a logistical, physical and mental challenge as you attempt to hoist all the various parts of it into the air at the same time. Because I don’t think the people at Ede & Ravenscroft, as smiley and helpful as they seemed when they gave you the gown, would be too pleased if you accidentally weed on your hood. Going to the loo also requires very studious checks afterwards because, if you’re going to go down in the annals of university history, you’d really rather it was for academic prowess, and not because you walked across the stage with your skirt tucked into your knickers at graduation.
But really, your actual degree is perhaps the least important thing you take away from university (maybe I’m just saying that because I now have a super useful degree in English). Instead, it’s all the things you managed to do, however great or small, that you hadn’t really realised you were capable of. It’s all the little triumphs and disasters that you had along the way, from accidentally dying blue splodges into all of your white clothes, to actually knowing how to help someone when they asked you for directions. But most importantly of all, it’s the people who accepted and loved you, without question or prejudice, when they had no reason to other than because you were you and they were them and we all thought that was a pretty cool thing for everyone to be. There is no ceremony to celebrate them, so this is me saying thank you to those people now – you know who you are. If I don’t see you until next week, or next year, or if I never see you again, know that the world already seems a little bit better even for just knowing that you exist somewhere in it, so thank you.
What comes next is a bit scary and we’re all a bit anxious about getting it all horribly wrong. But just remember that there is no correct or incorrect way to do your life, there are just people making decisions and hoping for the best. And all the choices we have to make seem hugely important, and of course some of them are. But actually, there aren’t too many things you can do that you can’t undo if you really change your mind, there are very few things you can break that you can’t fix if you have enough glue, and there aren’t many ways you can go wrong that you can’t put right, if you try hard enough. So be courageous, be kind, and don’t forget that none of the other 7 billion people on the planet have any idea what they’re doing either, we’re all just making this shit up as we go along.
The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.