Sunday, April 20, 2008

getting reacquainted with my memories

i am still reflecting on the enormously good fortune we seemed to have had yesterday on get acquainted day at the college: beautiful weather, fairly seamless event schedule, and lots and lots of excited high school seniors wandering around with their eyes full of stars.

well, maybe i took some poetic license with that last bit, but really, it was so gratifying to me to see how excited these guys were, and their happiness and energy mixed with my own memories of my get acquainted day five years ago, when i stepped onto gettysburg's campus and thought: oh thank god.

you see, this was because i had accepted gettysburg's offer of admission without ever having seen the the campus, and so get acquainted day had been my first actual glimpse of where i would be spending the next four years of my life. either i had taken a huge risk and would be largely disappointed, or–and i felt that this must be the case as i'd had such a good feeling from receiving the matriculation packet that it couldn't have been anything else–i would step onto campus and immediately feel the immense harmony and recognition of belonging that only someone can feel when they've made a huge decision based on very little insight and reasoning.

so there it was. i, watching the next generation of gettysburgians discover that the possibilities of their futures had all of a sudden seemed to explode open into the infinite, and i almost wanted to be a first-year all over again. take a first-year seminar again, go on my first-year walk, sit down with my advisor again for the first time and say 'i don't know what i want to do here' and have him say 'you can do anything'. and then finding myself going abroad, joining community service clubs, rediscovering music, writing a twenty-page research paper for the first time and thinking ha! i just wrote a twenty-page research paper.

flash-forward to graduation day when i sat in my ridiculous cap and gown on a white plastic folding chair out on the lawn in front of penn hall, and thought of the excitement of graduating, of feeling that at this moment, here was collegiate proof of everything i had done within the past four years. and laughing because kate stocker was the only bachelor of science in music education to be announced; laughing again when one cocky senior male kissed kate will on the cheek as he shook her hand.

and then in the instant that the ceremony was over suddenly feeling a rush of misery that it was all over. they call graduation a commencement ceremony to signify that this isn't the end, but the beginning. but how can you help feeling miserable, even if excited, that this world in which you flourished because of its endless possibilities, is now waving goodbye to you, pushing you out of the nest to put into practice everything you have learned while you were a student?

you might think it impossible to have such a mixture of thoughts and feelings over the course of a couple of seconds, one quickly succeeding the other 'in a quick staccato', as margaret atwood says it better than i do, but at least yesterday, feeling and remembering the feelings of everything that passed, it was fulfilling to think that these pleasures and new memories to be made were part of the next entering class's right. one set of parents, of whom the father was an alum, remarked that they still felt like gettysburg college students themselves, now in seeing their children matriculate. i guess i could feel that way too–and once a gburg student, always a gburg student. please forgive that cheesy ending because this college makes me freakin' emotional.


Andy White said...

Geez Bean...after you used matriculate like seventeen times, I had no choice but to look it up. The word sounds more like some kind of bodily process than enrollment to me.

Anyway, yeah, I can sense how seeing the matriculators at GAD tapped into your emotional reserves. If it were me, the little rascals would probably just make me feel aged. I'd also be envious of all their excitement about finally leaving home and going to college to live by themselves.

It hasn't been long enough for graduation to tug on my nostalgia strings because, to me, that seems like a few months ago. Not an entire year.

After reading your post, I think I crave some of that Atwood staccato, some rhythmic recall. I just need to figured out a way to summon it.

You know, my brother is 17, a junior in HS, and he's and starting to look at colleges. In fact, just last night I caught him in his room--he was on the internet thinking about matriculating...

Agatha Wells said...

hahhaa my vocabulary includes a lot of fancy words now, like matriculate, and yield and strategic planning.

it's weird that i feel like it's been so long, but it has and it hasn't. it's just as if so much has passed since we graduated that i feel like ten years has passed in between.

you should tell your brother to come visit gburg! he can have an interview w/ me too if he likes :).

Anonymous said...


Do Kate and Rachel (Stocker,Doehring) remember me?... from a long long long time ago in Austin (Texas), ...Caleb Tolman?

(if so, have them add me on facebook)
Nice story too, by the way, lol, -Caleb

it's not just for the classroom!