What was your graduation day like?

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The hat tossI still remember my graduation from college very clearly.  I was SUPER stressed out.  My family (mom, dad, two aunts, two uncles) were driving up up in two cars from Long Island and were staying at a hotel near where I was graduating at.  You see, I was graduating Canisius College but our class was so large,  that the ceremony was going to be at University of Buffalo, North Campus.  I was graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media Arts, with a minor in Philosophy.

I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up when I first saw TLC’s “waterfalls video”.  I loved the special effects in the video and wanted to do that type of work when I grew up. In highschool I was able to participate in a program that allowed me to take a class at one of the other schools in the district for my junior and senior year. The class was called corporate communications and digital imaging. We learned aspects of desktop publishing, advertising and 3D animation.

Once I was in college I took a wide variety of Digital Media Arts classes some of which included working with Advertising classes who were communications majors on various mock campaigns.  After a few of those I was convinced advertising wasn’t for me. I loved working with Adobe Flash making 2D animations but it was tedious work. For whatever reason I really liked  when my teachers would give us files and we would have to figure out what was wrong with them, and fix them. It didn’t matter if it was a website with broken links/images or files that were going to be printed that were missing fonts and didn’t have proper CMYK images for digital printing – I loved fixing stuff! I wasn’t sure what type of job I was going to end up with because I really wasn’t sure what types of jobs to apply for!

I had already started moving out of the dorm and into the apartment with Tony by the time graduation rolled around.  I still hadn’t found a job and was freaking out.  How was I going to help pay bills when I didn’t have a job?  I don’t remember the exact conversation earlier in the year where I told my parents that I wasn’t coming home after college, that I was going to move in with Tony and look for a job in western New York, but it must have been really awkward or I wouldn’t have blocked it from my memory.

The morning of graduation I broke my cell phone in all the craziness of getting ready. It was one of the flip open phones and luckily a wire was still connected, even though the two halves were broken apart,  so I could make calls if i held the phone with both hands.  I also couldn’t find my cords for Phi Sigma Tau, the philosophy honor society.  I worked hard to earn them and was one of the two people who had earned them by only being a philosophy minor not a  philosophy major. I remember fighting with my mom on the phone at some point because I was so stressed out about losing my cords. Somehow in my anger, I missed the part of the conversation where she told me that my family wasn’t meeting me at the dorm first – they were going right  to the arena where graduation was. So I sat in my dorm room waiting… and waiting – but luckily I found my cords. Eventually I gave up waiting for my family because I was going to be late if I didn’t get on the road.

I remember seeing my parents briefly in the parking lot, but I was late so I hurried in.  Tony sat with my family way up high in the arena, while i was sitting with my fellow graduates down below.  I was so nervous and still worried about not having a job that I wasn’t really listening to what any of the speakers were saying. I did feel a strong sense of accomplishment though, I was the first one in my family to graduate college. I felt good knowing my family was in the audience to cheer me on and share the moment with me.  After the ceremony I saw my family and took pictures.  Next Tony and I went back to the dorm to get the last of my stuff and turn in my keys.  I  think that is when it really hit me that school was really over and I had to enter the “real world”.

After turning in my keys, I headed to Applebees to meet up with my family, Tony’s family and my best friend Liz.  Nobody was there yet so Tony and I sat at the bar drinking. We didn’t go crazy, but I definitely needed something to calm me down before I had a nervous break down.

Me, Liz and Tony

Me, Liz and Tony

After dinner we all parted ways. My family was supposed to stay in town for a few days at the hotel and we were going to hit up some tourist attractions. However the next morning I woke up and my mom was knocking on the apartment door.  I saw through the peep hole that she was crying and the rest of the family other than my dad wasn’t with her.  I knew it was bad, whatever she was going to tell me had to be very bad. It turns out her father had passed away earlier that morning. My mom told me the other car with my aunts and uncles had already left to drive back home to tell my other uncle in person.  My mother had assured me that my grandfather knew I had graduated college.  I was the first person in the family to do so.   After my grandmother died a few years prior from a heart attack, the Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s had really taken a  hold of my grandfather.  He could no longer take care of himself. For a few years, the family worked in shifts to take care of him. Eventually as a family, we decided the nursing home where he had worked for years was the best place for him. The staff all knew him very well – he used to be the manager of housekeeping. It was very close to where we all lived and three of my uncles and father worked there, so he would have constant visitors.   During his more lucid moments he would tell my mother how he was trapped in a body that no longer did what he wanted it to do.  I really feel as though maybe my grandfather hung on until I graduated college.

My mom asked if I wanted to drive home with her and my father or fly home once the arrangements were made.  The last thing I wanted to do the day after graduating was sit in a car for 8 hours when I was grieving. I opted to take a flight the next day back to Long Island. I remember sitting in the limo at the cemetery checking all my voice mails on my still broken cell phone.  Luckily one was a company asking me to come in for an interview!  I was in no condition to talk to anyone that week so I waited until I was back in Rochester to call them back.  I ended up being hired the same day I went in for my interview and started that night.  Was I using my degree? No. Was earning a paycheck? Yes.

I got raises pretty frequently so I stayed running their digital printers.  Eventually I was told that I was going to get my own office and start helping out with pre-press. I was thrilled! Finally I was going to be able to use my degree! However, it was all talk. I never got an office. I never did pre-press work.  Long story short after busing my hump for them for over two years I got FED UP and went to their biggest rival making $3 an hour more to start. So that’s where I am now, six years later, still not using my degree.

So while this isn’t where I imagined I would have been 8 years ago, it is where I am now and I just keep on putting one foot in front of the other.  I have a decent paying job, a safe place to live and family that loves and supports me in everything I do. That is more than a lot of people can say these days, so I am happy.

Do you remember your graduation? As you sat in your seat at graduation, what did you imagine your life would be like? Did anyone in your family just  recently graduate?



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