I graduated from Fitchburg State (I never know whether to call it college or university- I know what I'm supposed to call it, but it feels weird) with a Masters of Early Childhood Education on Thursday night. I am now, as the college president called during our ceremony, a "double falcon."
I felt a little guilty because I did not, contrary to all the speeches tritely given at our ceremony, give it my all, fulfill my dreams, or reach for any stars. I know it's a law tha graduation ceremonies cannot escape using at least one of these phrases, but I did not stretch my brain to the limit. I got by with a bare minimum, sometimes. Often. I was not there by sheer force of will, but because I needed further education to keep my teaching license. All teachers in Massachusetts have to get a Master's degree. It is unavoidable.
I also felt a little silly because I decided to walk. I spent my family's tight resources to buy the cap and gown, I paid a babysitter to watch my kids, and had my husband leave work early. My mother spent her time off work and bought PLANE TICKETS. She took us out to dinner. There was lots of fanfare. All for what? For something that everyone has to do. For a government requirement that is probably, in the long run, mostly situated to make the colleges more money.
But here is the thing: I love ceremony. I love tradition, and I love recognition. When I put on the robes and Milo said, "Mama, ghost!", I got a little thrill. When I talked through the rec center where the graduates gathered and all the staff gave us numbers and checked our name pronunciation and said, over and over, "Congratulations," I felt proud. I said, "Thank you. So much." When Ben jumped down from the bleachers and hugged me as I stepped off the stage, I got butterflies. When I got to hug my mama and have her be proud of me in person, I was so happy I had decided to go through with the "silliness." We went to dinner at Mezcal and had adult conversation and we would never do that on a Thursday if I hadn't decided to celebrate the most recent milestone. On Friday, my vice principal congratulated myself and two other friends in a school-wide email, and I was completely spoiled with coworkers taking time to give me a hug, or a thumbs up. The same friends who had to go through all the same hoops, and had celebrated the same accomplishments, didn't begrudge me a little "woohoo!" and shared the relief of being done.
I don't think finished with my education. One day, I'd like to be a children's librarian, and in Mass, that requires more degrees. That would be my true dream fulfillment. But for now, I'm reveling in the pride of my job that supports my community, gives my family health insurance, and puts me in contact with one of the most important support systems I've ever had- my work family. Thank you, Mama, for coming and seeing me. Thank you, family (Julianna, Emily, Linda, Laurel, Tanya) and lovely friends (ALL OF YOU) for the messages sent from all over the country. Thank you, friends (Shayna, Kate, and Lindsay), for watching my kids while I'm at class. Thank you, Southeast, for cheering me on and making me feel special, even when I'm doing what all of you have already pulled off. Thank you, Ben, for infinite patience and taking the boys when I needed to finish a paper. Thanks for reading, too.