I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this university is, more than anything else, a Hellish Maw that exists primarily to crush and destroy the hopes and spirits of everyone who attends it.
That being said: nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than seeing beautiful pictures of all of my friends, smiling happily with their degree and with their mum.
There’s like a ying and yang there, right? This weird tension between a deliberately formal, overlong, functionally unnecessary event, and the happy nice personal moments that people have in that context.
In practice, graduation ceremonies function like a weird retro throwback to secondary school prize-givings – they’re overly formal, mostly involve people who aren’t you, they take hours to get to the point, and you can’t leave.
That being said: if you’re a graduate, you do have to wear a big stupid outfit.
I actually didn’t realise until relatively recently that if you do a PhD you get a big silly floppy hat, but apparently you do, and now I’m seriously considering a PhD. Obviously: the big capes are also great, and I love the big pointy hat as well.
And then there’s the parade.
On the one hand, it is a nice tradition. And I do get a visceral thrill out of anything massively disruptive to other people – particularly when it mildly inconveniences people stupid enough to bring their cars down onto Queen Street.
It also means that half of the graduating parties each year – especially the ones who graduate around now, who are lucky enough to be participating in this parade in the back end of winter – inevitably get soaked halfway to death.
That’s kinda funny to me. It’s like the University has presumably just accepted that this is inevitably going to happen at this point, but has decided to commit to it anyway.
My point here, I guess, is that graduating proceedings are innately silly.
But that silliness is exactly right for the occasion.
University sucks for a lot of reasons, and in a lot of ways. It can be relentlessly unfair, at times. It can be isolating. Parts of it are hugely underfunded, and it’s stupid. But more than anything else, University sucks because it has to suck – higher learning is genuinely hard, and requires a level discipline and focus that can be difficult to summon.
Everyone who attends this university has lost sleep trying to get assignments in on time, or has been brought to near-meltdown by how ridiculously hard their allocated readings are.
The only thing that motivates people to get to that point is a real desire to learn and better themselves. We do this shit, I guess, because we think the slog is worth it, and it’s hard to not be proud of everyone who makes it to the finish line.