Graduation Day

As you read this, dear reader, I am at commencement. I’m not entirely sure at what point in the commencement, I scheduled this post to fall somewhere around the time that everyone should be walking across the podium. But today is a day many, many years in the making. I made good on my promise to beat my cousin in terms of age that he received his degree, coming in a full eight years younger than he was when he got his.

Today, it’s not just me that will be crossing the podium. I plan on taking a small part of my loved ones across the podium with me as I graduate today. I’ve incorporated elements into what I’m wearing or carrying to ensure that. (As a writer, I’m big on symbolism. It’s something I picked up from my mom, she’s always working tiny details into things that most wouldn’t notice as symbols, be it center pieces or wedding flowers.)

The Pocket New Testament

In my pocket, I’ll be carrying a New Testament–this represents my church family. I’ve been blessed to served with a wonderful church for over 10 years now–while parts of the family have moved on to places elsewhere that God has called them, they’ve each made an impact and an investment in my life.

The Pair of Aces

The pair of aces might seem random, but it’s actually to honor my twin sister. Why cards? Some of my earliest memories were my father teaching my sister and I to play poker. (why did my father teach us to play poker? I have no idea. It’s probably the most useless skill I’ve ever learned. But I can.) The pair of aces is the ace of spades and the ace of hearts, which represents that while we’re two of a kind, we’re also very different.

The Necktie

The necktie I’m wearing symbolizes two things–my George Fox cohort in the color, and my father in the fact that I know how to tie a necktie. I bought a new tie for the event, specifically selecting blue and gold as a representation of the school, and to represent that a large part of the success that I’ve had in George Fox comes from the amazing group of people that I am graduating with. I attended Fox because I needed the connection with other human beings, part of my biggest difficulty with my run-up to starting the program was the load of online courses that I took to fulfill prerequisites: I didn’t feel connected to any of my classmates, even those that I was assigned to work with. Over the past 15 months, I’ve been connected to this amazing group of people, and we’ve grown just from being around each other. You all made things interesting, as we all came from different backgrounds and perspectives and that allowed us to expand our knowledge even more, but to also build relationships that will carry over into our professional lives.

My father was the man who taught me how to tie a necktie–although somewhat ironically, one of my most vivid memories was the day that he helped me tie a brand new necktie for homecoming–when the skinny end was longer than it needed to be, instead of re-tying it, he took out a pair of scissors and snipped the skinny end to shorten it. But it’s somewhat appropriate–my dad would be the first to admit he’s made mistakes in his life.

The Tie Bar

Across the necktie is a silver & blue tie bar–this represents my in-laws. I’ve been blessed to marry into an amazing family, who have accepted me as one of their own in allowing me to marry Amanda. During the past five years, we’ve spent holidays together and shared many memories. They’ve supported this pursuit through encouragement and prayer, things that I needed throughout my pursuit of the degree.

The Red Pen

There will be a red pen in my pocket throughout the ceremony–it might seem odd, however it represents the deep friendship of Michael Wanberg, who was the best man in my wedding. He’s been both encouraging and supportive, amazing when you consider our friendship was founded upon a heated Monopoly rivalry (we’ve since moved on to other, less common board games, but regardless–our Monopoly games were legen–wait for it–dary.) The red pen symbolizes our time on staff as editors senior year in yearbook, but also his willingness as a friend to have difficult–potentially corrective–conversations. When he first realized that Amanda and I were becoming serious, he was willing to pull me aside for dinner to make sure I was serious and had thought things through.

The Ring

The ring that is on my right hand celebrates my mother & my grandparents. My grandfather passed away my freshman year of high school, something that I realized in writing one of my life learning essays I’d never fully grieved over. My grandmother is now 93, and last week, while in the throes of my final class, she fell and broke her hip. Grandma’s a tough old bird, but she’s reached a point in life where I think she may be ready to move on. All of this ties together when my mother called me up a couple of weeks ago. She wanted a meaningful graduation gift, and wanted to know if she had my grandfather’s wedding ring resized, if I would wear it. I didn’t even hesitate–it belonged to grandpa, and I was honored that she would entrust me with it. As far as graduation gifts go, it’s beyond anything I could’ve asked for. With it, I carry my grandparents & my mother with me as I accept my diploma.

The Cufflinks, Pocketwatch, and the OTHER Ring

These three things represent my wife–the cufflinks, her support and helping hands when I needed assistance with something (I joke that I wouldn’t have passed intro to music without her, but honestly? I probably wouldn’t have). The pocketwatch, the time commitment–she’s had to suffer through me being distracted by my schooling for three years now, more than half of our marriage. The ring, our wedding band, the symbol of her unconditional love & support for the five years we’ve been married. I’ve not always been the most pleasant person to be around, especially in the last two weeks running up to the end of term. Thank you, Amanda, for supporting me throughout the process and blessing me in more ways than I could ever possibly quantify without writing a novel about it.

Who knows? I may yet. 😊

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