by Lucy Ellis, Valedictorian
When I graduated from elementary school, we attended a dinner-dance at a local hall where the DJ played the radio-edited, clean versions of popular early 2000’s songs. We yelled the original lyrics, much to our teacher’s chagrin, and were picked up by our parents at midnight. After our Grade 12 graduation, my friends and I took a limo to Niagara Falls and fit too many people into a hotel room. Now, at the pinnacle of my youthful years and my education, the highlight of my social calendar was a gourmet dinner with my family and dancing to retro music with some amazing friends. I guess this is growing up.
The chaos of convocation didn’t fully hit me until the day before. I looked at my closet and irrationally hated everything – I know, we were wearing gowns, what did it matter what my dress looked like? – so a determined trip to the Rideau Centre was in order. I also realized that I didn’t have a printed copy of my speech and had forgotten to pick up my grad portraits. Then a Francophone friend informed me that I make a weird “h” sound when I roll my r’s. Anglophone problems. By the time the actual day rolled around, I woke up at 7, panicked, thought that I had missed the entire thing, and needed to be reminded by my boyfriend to take a breath and calm down.
Convocation day was the easy part. Stand up, speak for five minutes, sit down, walk across a stage, receive a piece of paper and it’s over. The hard part was already done – it took four years, about a hundred books, two laptops, enough essays to kill a forest, and more all-nighters than I would care to admit. I didn’t get through it alone though, and I was reminded of that during the ceremony.
The first thing that I did when I sat on the stage was scope out the audience and find one of my beloved UESA members – the UESA is my student association and, for all intents and purposes, my university family. The first face that I found was the friend who had reviewed my speech for me. I took it as a good sign. Whenever I got nervous, I could look to her and feel her support. Then I heard the squeak of my excitable eleven-month-old niece from a balcony and pinpointed my family’s location. When I looked behind me, a cluster of English professors were on the stage, most of whom I had taken classes with. I had my three strongest safety nets right there with me.
Nobody tripped and the onstage-selfies didn’t come out until the second ceremony. I didn’t hiccup during my speech and was able to ignore the terrible advice of imagining people in their underwear. The ceremony didn’t take three hours like many of us feared. All in all, it was a successful day. We’ve graduated – now what?