Today is the first time you stepped a foot into your old University Campus. It has been six years since you were here last. Judging by the edifice of the building so much has changed but then again so have you. There is an aura of eeriness to this terracotta painted Georgian building. The pilgrims of students rushing in and out of the building distract you and then your eyes transfix on few students in their graduation gear. You stand still in that position, application forms dangling from your left hand and you begin contemplating.
Before you knew it, your thoughts have gone back in time; to your own graduation day.
The nostalgia is quite palpable.
November 18th 2008:
Your whole life has been building up to this moment. You are bursting with pride and so is everyone within a square meter. November 18th 2008 was a special day, in fact a very special day when measured against the scale of the past 21 years of your life.
It was your graduation day; a day laden with superlatives. It was easily the best day of your life to date. The kind that fill you with warm fuzzy feelings which when you are so lost in the moment give you the false hope that the world is indeed your oyster. Ahh you were so full of youth, promises, hopes, naivety and who could blame you then for having so many hopes for the future. How were you to know that life wasn’t quite going to pan out as you hoped it would, as you planned it would. You were always full of positivity, and maybe your innate ability to forever see the glass as half full has been your downfall.
You arrived extra early on the day to give yourself plenty of time for any mishaps. The local City Hall, a grade II listed building was the University’s chosen venue for the ceremony. The weather wasn’t particularly great on that faithful Thursday afternoon so you made your way into the building past the giant portico and through to the changing chambers; an area dedicated to graduates to retrieve their gowns. You remember walking briskly towards the chirpy man at the counter. “Olright love” he said to you in his friendly northern accent. “What can I do you for”, he asked before you even had the chance to acknowledge his initial greeting. On a normal day you would have sniggered at his illusive question and replied back with an equally subliminal satire along the lines of “dunno mate! What do you have on offer?”
But not today, his pun on words has no purport; you quickly attribute it to harmless foolery and it is thus safely ignored. Upon verifying the correct details he presented you with a black calf length gown, a maroon and grey sash placed neatly at the front of it in a V-shape. He observed you as you adorned your graduation gown and cap, a gift from your parents who took on the expenses of hiring the gown for the day.
Getting you into a six digit worth of student debt wasn’t seemingly enough but they want to squeeze every last penny out of you so you are well and truly a “skint student”. Fulfilling prophecy and all that! Once you signed the declaration forms to confirm the retrieval of your gown the man began studying you in that gown or rather your aesthetics (to date you still can’t quite tell if it was the former or the latter) and remarked “you look lovely flower”. You politely offered your gratitude and walked out of the room to the promise of something great lying in the auditorium next door.
As you made your way to the auditorium you are met by a young rep who tells you where your seating is. Upon entering the hall you made your way towards the back where aisle 7 was and began inspecting the decor of the hall or the lack of it. But you were not too fussed by that, rather more appreciative that your surname began with the letter ‘G’ and sighed a silent prayer of gratitude to God and great granddad (times how many necessary numbers to take you to whichever granddad it was that gifted you with such a surname). To say that you were relieved to know that you didn’t have a name beginning with the first letter of the alphabet and consequently seated in the first aisle was an understatement.
You took your seat in aisle 7 and watched in silence as the rest of your peers took their respective seats, waving and smiling frantically as you spot familiar faces. Everything was working to a military precision. Within minutes the Dean of the University took to the stage and started addressing the crowd. His speech was euphoric.
Once the Dean was done with his speech you and the rest of the graduates began your solemn procession towards the stage and one by one you all retrieved your certificates and made your way out to the foyer. Once in the foyer, you were all frivolous and snapped away at each other in an attempt to capture this important day. Of course you all couldn’t help but partake in the decades old tradition of throwing your mortar boards (and your inhibitions) in the air; symbolising the end of an era and the beginning of an uncertain one.
A female voice coming from a distance brings you back to here and now. “How can I help you, love”, she says to you. Her question brings your nostalgia to a halt. You take a moment or so before you answer her question; “hi, I am here to see the postgraduate officer”. You follow the friendly female’s instructions and walk down the corridor past the jubilant graduates. Your excitement is flagrant too. When you reach the bottom of the corridor you turn right, up a flight of stairs and into yet another corridor, this time occupied by various offices on either side. When you reach your destination, you pause, inhale deeply and then knock on the door. You can’t help but hope that in three years’ time you too will be celebrating.