Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Holy Crap, I'm a Doctor!

I was never really into the whole idea of walking at graduation. I walked in high school, which meant less than nothing to me, but was very important to my parents. I walked again in college, which was of inordinate importance to me. I went to both ceremonies: the one for the whole enormous university, where they announced entire colleges at once ("School of Engineering"-- all the engineering grads stood up-- "College of Arts and Sciences"-- all the liberal arts graduates stood up, etc.), as well as the "smaller" one for just the students in my college at the university, where they called us up by name. Several thousand students graduated at the same time, so it was a mad house. I was totally into it, though, in part because I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and in part because I had to work so freaking hard just to finish.

Law school graduation not only seemed utterly unimportant to me, I was actually dreading going through with the ceremony. I tenatively broached the idea of not walking back in the fall, and my mother was so upset, I knew I had to go through with it. I'm still the only one to finish college-- though my sister is about to finish a certificate program in office management, and I have a cousin who went to nursing school, and her younger sister just started college this fall. My finishing law school is a huge deal to them, sort of the culmination of their deepest hopes and dreams that I would be able to acheive higher things than they had the opportunity for.

So I sucked it up and rented the cap and gown, cleaned my apartment, and borrowed an air mattress from Ash. Friday afternoon, while I was waiting for my family to decend on my peaceful apartment, I decided to press my gown. When I took the stuff out of the package, I found that I had been given the wrong size cap, so I thought it might be a good idea to try on the robe and make sure I had the right size. I stood in front of my full length dressing mirror and put the robe on. And I looked at myself, standing there with the velvet stripes and it hit me: I am a doctor.

I mean, yeah, it's not that kind of doctor. But still! I am now the proud holder of the degree of Juris Doctor.

After the shock of discovering that I have not been sitting in classes for the past three years for nothing, I decided to deal with the whole cap thing by calling one of the deans. No messing around for me! And I was assured that they would have a smaller cap for me, all I had to do was come and find them up by the stage about 15 minutes before the ceremony started.

When we arrived at the hall on Saturday, the lawn was filled with people wandering around with their caps and gowns on, squealing and pointing and taking pictures, and generally in high excitement. I had left my camera at home because what on earth was I going to do with it during the ceremony? but I regretted it because I really wanted to take pictures of myself with my friends. I got to meet the Dirty Birdie's parents, and they were so cute I wanted to die. Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay and chat with them because the dean was not where she said she would be, and I needed a cap that wouldn't fall off my head.

I finally tracked down the dean's Administrative Assistant, who guided me to a small box with spare caps in it-- all of which, except for one, were the exact same size as the too big one I had been given. What. The. Hell? Why have all the same size if you're supposed to be taking care of mistakes made by Herff Jones? I ended up bobby pinning the stupid cap on.

And then we were lined up in alphabetical order in the hallways, smothering in the robes, and waiting impatiently for everything to start. I realized that I really had to pee. But there wasn't time for that anymore, so I'd just have to suffer. The line started to shuffle forward and suddenly, there we were at the door to the auditorium. I could hear the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance in the distance. As I stepped over the threshold, I saw a sea of faces, all turned to watch us walking down the aisle, taking pictures, flashes going off all over the place, and I almost stopped short because it was a little scary. Is that what it's like to walk down the aisle at your wedding? Because I'm not sure I want to do it, ever again.

The ceremony itself was quite nice, though the dean-- a novice at this Commencement thing-- kept forgetting to stay close to the microphone during her speeches, and the class president gave a speech memorable for its inanity and illogical structure and phrasing. The commencement speaker was excellent, one of the best I've ever heard, making my record two for three (Bill Cobsy gave the speech at my undergraduate Commencement and was phenomenal).

And then came the hooding ceremony. I hadn't bothered to read up on the ceremony beforehand, despite being advised to do so by the dean. I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to wing it. So I was mildly surprised by the fact that you face the audience while being hooded, though I kind of liked the symbolism of it, once I got used to it. Of the three professors doing the hooding, I had been in classes with two of them and liked them both very much, so I was hoping to be hooded by one of them. Unfortunately, that was not to be. I was hooded by the former dean of the law school, who I am told is a very nice man and a great scholar, but who I do not know and have never actually spoken to. Then I walked across the stage to have my hand shaken by several people I didn't know, plus the dean and associate dean.

Back in my seat, sitting next to the girl I sat next to in first semester Legal Process, being strangled by my hood, I watched a parade of faces go by, almost all of them familiar. A few of them, I'd forgotten about ("Hey, look! Gilligan graduated after all! I thought he'd transferred!"). A few of them, I won't be too sad not to see again. Soulless Evil Goblin was the queen of tacky when she came forward to be hooded, and the Queen Bee had both colored and straightened her hair, making her look like Tammy Faye Scarecrow. But mostly, there were people I laughed with, worked with, sweated through exams with, complained about the administration with, and shared this intense experience with. People I spent more time with over the past three years than my best friend or my family.

And then the Dean presented us, the Class of 2006, to the audience. We stood together while our families and friends applauded. I felt a lump in my throat as I realized the enormity of what we'd accomplished and also realized that this was the last time we'd ever be gathered together like that. All of these people who had gathered together in the Courtroom less than three years ago for Orientation were standing together one last time for Graduation.

Circle of life and all.

We took pictures on the front lawn, me sweltering in my gown, but unwilling, really, to take it off. I wanted so badly to take pictures with Dirty Birdie, but in the crush of things, I couldn't find her, and the opportunity was lost. Finally, when almost everyone had gone to the reception, I turned in my cap and gown and my hood. It was really hard to give up that hood. I don't understand why we didn't get to keep it, or at least didn't get the option to buy it. Not that I know what I'd do with it.

And that was it. I'm officially Katze, J.D. And I have to study for the bar exam.

At church on Sunday, one of the professors from the law school came up to congratulate me and said "Isn't it a dirty trick they play, making you take the bar exam after you've graduated?" Yes, in fact, it is. The dirtiest trick there is, if you ask me.

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