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Endings and Beginnings

June 16, 2014

During my afternoon run today, I ran through King’s Circle at UofT, hoping to catch a few bird songs and a glimpse of beautiful trees and flowers before I was forced onto the noisy streets of Toronto again.

Yet, as I was approaching the gates, I quickly discovered that today was convocation day. I slowed down to take everything in. Everyone was smiling. Graduates were decked out in gowns and caps. Parents were toting around flowers and diploma-sized frames. Suddenly, I was hurled back to my own convocation day.

That day was much like today. The day was cloudy, but somehow, the sun had come out for my ceremony. Everyone was smiling. Graduates were decked out in gowns and caps. Parents were toting around flowers and diploma-sized frames.

On the way to the Hall, I saw my friend MP walking with CG and a few others. I quickly weaved through the crowd and ran up and hugged MP. Surprised, he let out a “Oh hey!” Hugs and “Congratulations” were given all around. We stood outside the hall and chatted. RH had problems with her cap, and we laughed at how we should have watched the instructional video. Soon, we were ushered into the Hall, to be lined up, and then paraded down to lower field and into the big white tent. CG asked me if the tufts of hair sticking out from under his cap were cute. I laughed, adjusted his tassel to the other side, and said, “Yes, very.”

We got into our places in line and waited. The hall was abuzz with delight. I started chatting with the girl beside me, laughing at how hot it was in the hall and lamenting over how unfortunate it was that we had just met. She was a nice girl, and I thought to myself, “Well, of course, we always meet the best people at the end.”

A while later, we were paraded outside and down into the tent on lower field. We took our seats and finally, the ceremony began. As I sat in my seat and stared onstage, I couldn’t help but feel a range of emotions.

Happy because it was finally over. Happy because I finally did it–something that I thought I wouldn’t finish. Happy because I was so proud of myself for having arrived at my destination.

But sad. Sad because it happened so quickly. Sad because I didn’t even have time enjoy it. No, sad because I didn’t take the time to enjoy it. Sad because it could have been so much more but wasn’t.

Relieved because I know who I am now. Relieved that all of what I went through during these past four years–the existential crises, the episodes of depression, the extreme longing for home–wasn’t for nothing. Relieved that I’ve figured out my life.

Excited. Excited that a new chapter of life awaits me. Excited to finally be able to put this behind me and to move on with  my life.

Soon, my row was called upon to line up to walk on stage, one by one. Veronica, the girl whom I met in the hall, joked that her face was melting from the heat. I giggled and exclaimed how nervous I was… because this was it. This was the moment I have been waiting for since I received my acceptance letter to McGill in 2010.

As I watched each person walking across the stage and being tapped on the head with a cap, I reflected on the last 4 years. During those four years, I often complained that what I learned in school was irrelevant and useless for “real life.” But I was wrong, more wrong than I have been about anything in my life. I am so grateful for my education–so grateful for everything I’ve learned. My time at university has changed my life–not only because I experienced many new things for the first time (being on my own, making new friends, etc.) but also because my education has taught me to open my heart and mind. I’ve learned so much both inside and outside the classroom, and I can honestly say, without reserve, that I am a better person today than I ever was.

The more I learned, the more I discovered that there was still so much to be learned. As Socrates said, “All I know is that I know nothing.” I am grateful that I found Philosophy in university. Although it threw me into the deepest pits of despair in second year of university, I am glad that I did eventually emerge from it a better and more secure person.

As I reminisced on my undergraduate days, I was pulled back to reality as the attendant signalled to me to climb the stairs of the stage. I turned to look into the crowd and saw MP sitting a few rows from the stage, smiling at me. I waved at him. My name was read aloud, and I began to cross the stage. Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to even think. As the Vice-Chancellor tapped me on the head with his cap, I heard a couple of people in the crowd shout, “Yeahhhh, Tina!” I didn’t know who or where it was coming from, but I turned and smiled. The Dean of Arts shook my hand and said, “Congratulations, Tina.” A second later, our picture was taken, and I walked off stage.

And that was that. More speeches were given, and finally, the throwing of the cap into the air. My cap hit a girl in the face, and I apologized profusely while she did not look pleased. (Ha ha.)

After the ceremony, plenty of pictures were taken. My family went to get the car while I ran back to Leacock 232 to return my gown. They let me keep the cap.

And as I walked through the throngs and mélange of people, smiling at passersby, I forced myself to look back once. I turned my head to look at the Arts building, the place where it all started and ended. I knew I wasn’t coming back, and that was something both comforting and scary.

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