Late last August I completed yet another season of the University of Colorado faculty/grad student/staff softball league, defended my PhD dissertation, and left Boulder for Washington, D.C. for a technology & science policy fellowship at the National Academies. In short, that didn’t work out, so I began looking for jobs in Boulder. Two weeks ago I had an interview at a local company, after which I had softball practice. Since I planned to drive out the next week, I left most of my clothes, including my “interview suit” in my old office at CU, which remained as I’d left it, down to the content of the dry erase boards and trash cans. Last night I even had a frozen dinner that I’d left behind.
It was as if I’d never left, for the above reasons, and that I had not participated in a graduation ceremony of any kind. This week I’ve been on campus a fair amount doing research for a grant proposal, and on Thursday saw my professors and former classmates donning their robes and funny hats for the Engineering graduation ceremony at 7 PM. At first I thought nothing of it, but then realized that participating in it would be nice, as it would commemorate an accomplishment and be quite literally a commencement of a new chapter in my life, which has been more-or-less in limbo for the past eight months. (“Life’s what goes on when you’re busing making other plans.” — John Lennon)
I arrived at the event center around 15 minutes before the ceremony was to begin, and casually inquired as to whether I could participate. They had no extra robes, I had not signed up to be on the list, and my advisor, who was supposed to “hood me” was not there. Resigned to be a spectator, I found the optics professors and my former classmates who were graduating and chatted with them, joking about how I could scrounge up a cap and gown, and that Adam, the department’s excellent graduate program assistant, could once again (for old times’ sake) save the day. I approach him at 7:00 PM, and jokingly state my case. He outlines a plan and says “Hey, you have to crash your own graduation.” I was weary, and figured I’d just watch it with him. Listening to the speeches, I realized that the only thing stopping me was that my attire was too casual, and it would be disrespectful to the occasion. Then I turned to Adam and said “Wait, I have a suit in my office!” So off I went, put on the suit, tied the tie, opted to go beltless than wear a brown belt with a gray suit and black shoes, and returned. Adam spoke to the right person, I joined my professors and classmates, borrowed a hat (jester-like, very nice), tassel, and hood from a professor (who has been very helpful for years, and continues to be) and walked across the stage with a few students in “my” cohort in the CU optics program since the autumn 1999. And to top if all off, I had my picture taken with an (empty) diploma case (mine was mailed to be months ago) and Colorado flags behind me. My final school photo! I even rested my chin on my fist.