Friday, June 26, 2009

Convocated and hooded

I have graduated before.

I struggled at first with how to dress in such a way that would be complemented by my gown and hat. In high school, I wore a very large ballgown style cotton sundress of my mother's that I loved for it's intricate quilting.

Looking back, I think, "Of course."

I also french braided my hair, which was very elegant and sophisticated in 1995.

But when I got to school and put on the white gown that was effectively transparent and that was shorter and narrower than my dress (which made it poof out the bottom and gave me a silhouette like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer monster) and looked around to see that almost all of the other girls wore small, white dresses, making their gowns lay flat and without other colors showing through, I felt like I was the groomsman at the wedding who wears his Metallica t-shirt under his tux shirt, which is fine until he starts sweating on the dance floor. He is oblivious but everyone else quickly forms an opinion about his character. Also, when I realized that everyone else had their hair loose to form an aurora around their heads under their mortarboards, I felt a little less fancy.
The only explanation I can offer is that I had all of this training in competitive speech (forensics) and choirs that taught me that when I dressed up, I needed to make sure that my hair didn't fall in my face. I didn't dress up much except to perform so the association was strong.
By the time I graduated from college, I'd learned my lesson about the dress and half-way with the hair. I think it helped that I had read Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night, which has a positively brilliant section where Harriet Vane carefully chooses her own outfit for her reunion at Oxford to complement the academic gown she would need to don again and then mentally pities the woman who has not had such forethought.
Look at my awesome family! We had picnic breakfast that morning in celebration. It was something we used to do when we visited my grandma, grandpa and great-aunts and uncles in Danville, IL all the time when I was a kid. Looking back, I realize that it was super labor intensive for the women. They would make pancake batter, pack up milk, orange juice, eggs, bacon, butter and jam into coolers and take it all out to the picnic shelter in a public park and use electric skillets to cook it fresh in the outdoors. They even used to bring pretty cloth tablecloths to cover the uggy picnic tables.
I think that I've finally figured out graduation fashion, which is good because I can't see myself going back to school again and it's nice to finally get it right.

Of course, getting my Master's Degree is about a little more than just fashion. It's also about being surrounded by magnificent architecture.
And good friends made during the experience.
And nostalgia for our freshman exuberance.

And good friends who stood in for family when my cousin decided to get married the same weekend. (She waited until Sunday so I could just make it to Florida in time for the ceremony but my immediate family were all taking the cheaper earlier flights.) But just look at that cheering section!

I have to admit that I'm struggling a little bit right now with having spent all of this money to get this degree. I learned during my first year that I absolutely abhor generating quantitative data about social phenomena and so didn't spend more time than the minimum required learning how. I figured that I wouldn't want a job doing that so I should focus on classes that would inform my professional interests. I can't think of another strategy that would have made more sense but now it seems like the only jobs out there are for quantitative data research. All other jobs for people with Master's Degrees in Public Policy require me to have the Catch-22 of management experience. You can't get a job without it but you can't get the experience without someone first hiring you to do it.

Still, its only Day 3 of the job search. I will persevere. Someone out there will think I'm awesome.

I think that my time in grad school was also inherently valuable. I think about the world in a completely different way (rational choice theory, anyone?). Actually, learning the analysis that I've learned simply provided a codified framework for what I've always kind of suspected. I am so much more mentally comfortable now that I have a little support for my thoughts, like finally finding a good bra.

I met good people and learned more about myself through them. I'm a little sheepish to admit that I also found a huband.

Plus, it was just plain fun to spend some time on a student's schedule, excercising my brain. How luxurious! Although it was sometimes frustrating to be spinning my wheels by writing papers about topics that my professors already knew about rather than actually effecting change in the world through my work, I know the practice will benefit my work (when I actually get to do some).

So, overall, the benefits of the effort outweigh the costs. Any policy-maker would evaluate that kind of endeavor as a success.


Ti Christophe said...

congratulations, Rebecca!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!! And I agree that we learn all sorts of Big Things during our degrees that are inherently valuable even if the practical side of things may sometimes seem bleak.

amy said...

When i graduated from HS our caps and gowns were white and see through too. and every girl wore little white dresses. some wore pants but all white with white or clear shoes. I, on the other hand purposely wore a pink dress with hot pink shoes. We also had to line up and wait outside and then it started thundering. I don't remember us getting rained on but with all that white we were asking for trouble.

ABG said...

Congratulations, Rebecca!