To many, including this particular 2005 graduate, the rigmarole surrounding graduation consists of primarily hype, accentuated by a few hundred dollars or more lost to pricey regalia, announcements and gifts, and capped off by an afternoon spent sweltering in the June sun for but two seconds of “hearing-my-name” glory.
But in this rare instance, mere sarcasm will not suffice, and I am forced to face up to the sincere thoughts I often shroud beneath a far too cynical exterior.
When I graduated high school in 2001, try as I did, I felt nothing emotionally. I was ready to move on, grow up and discover who I was in a different place filled with new people.
But today, although it is time to once again move forward, I am finding it anything but easy to leave behind the place in which I did grow up, and even more so, to leave behind the people I discovered along the way.
CSUN is certainly not without its flaws, which I have both sincerely and playfully poked fun at in this newspaper over the course of the past several years. I intended this very piece to be a smarmy “graduation costs too much, is too sensationalized, and what’s really the point?” spiel.
But as I tried to poke fun at the prospect of students having to pay $7.95 for their well-earned honors medallions, I realized that to do so would be to defeat my own purpose, for I would like to hope, although it may sound cheesy, that CSUN’s sometimes quirky and other times downright ridiculous shortcomings won’t be the aspects of college I most remember, either today or in the future.
After all, if at the end of the day all we can muster are tongue-in-cheek vendettas, then our years at this school have truly been wasted.
For while I may on some random night in my old age recall with a grimace the CSUN parking horrors, the botched advisement experiences, and how many times various staff and faculty hadn’t a clue, there are far more poignant memories I hope will stay.
Mine include an election night in a crowded newsroom filled with friends and co-workers, a crazy conference trip to San Diego with my fellow Society of Professional Journalists club members, crying on a couple caring shoulders, many a Chili’s margarita, and friendships I hope will last from across the country.
Although we are all well aware of the CSUN “commuter campus” curse, and we collectively aren’t big on the whole “college life” thing, I hope every graduate has at least one memory like mine to keep.
I must also divulge today that like probably many students on this campus, in the beginning, (or maybe throughout my entire college years), I had a nagging wish that I could have done better than CSUN, that I could have followed in the footsteps of those who hail from UCLA or USC, and who turn their noses up at a “lowly” CSU like ours.
But I also lived the lesson that success at a school like this, or perhaps any school, is determined largely by what one is willing to put into it, and how successful one is determined to become.
This school happily allowed me to experience a much greater diversity than I gained attending high school in a sheltered suburbia, gain a tremendous respect for those who work to support families while simultaneously attending college, and interact and learn from students who are older and much wiser than my mere 21 years allow. These experiences may well have been non-existent at a “typical” college campus.
And although not every class or every professor has left a positive lesson ingrained in my mind, from two professors in particular I have learned things that have simply become part of who I am, both in my planned career and as a person.
If every graduate has at least one or two people who have influenced she or he in this way, the CSUN experience has been worth the overflowing classes and constant tuition increases, because though the prestige of our campus may not be brag-worthy, I cannot imagine that simply being a Harvard or USC professor means someone could have one-upped the things I learned from these individuals.
And so, as we bask together on the Oviatt Lawn (although with the way this year has gone, it may be pouring) in our $27 caps and gowns, listening to B-list guest speakers and hearing our names mispronounced for but a fleeting instant of pride, hopefully there will be more to think about, remember and celebrate than we might at first anticipate, even for the most cynical, least sentimental in our 2005 graduating class.