Everything is not as it seems. I had all of these expectations about what would happen at graduation.
The graduation ceremony was classic. All 142 graduates of the college of General Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette seemed to be on the professional student / Van Wilder track. As soon as we marched through the curtains to “Pomp and Circumstance” the jeers started. “It’s about time!” was the common slogan yelled by Cajun grandpas and fathers with complete flaaaat accents.
It felt nice to know that I am not the only person to be constantly heckled by their family.
My favorite lagniappe sound to really capture a South Louisiana institute of higher learning commencement was the duck call. Nothing says high class like hunting sounds at a ceremony.
I hear the other commencements weren’t as laid back, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Another superb moment was when they were announcing me as Outstanding Graduate of my college. I was sitting among my colleagues and no one really knew who I was. The girl in front of me was completely mocking me as they listed my accomplishments and activities. I overheard her ask, “I mean who is this girl?” I was giggling as they called my name to stand up.
The look on this chick’s face when she realized I was sitting behind her was absolutely priceless. Her eyes leapt from her skull and twisted with her jaw that had hit her knee. I just leaned over and said after a laugh, “Yeah, I’m obnoxious,” then walked up on stage to accept my red rope to wear when I would accept my diploma.
Oh yeah, they made the mistake of calling my Mom Susan, instead of Sylvia. It’s always great to have a lifetime inside joke. It’s now my mother’s alter-ego pseudonym. For a split second while I was on stage with the dean and president of the Alumni Association, I thought about grabbing the mic and correcting the error, but opted not to. My father later told me he thought for sure I was going to scream “Woo-Hoo!” on stage (Hate to admit that I had also thought about doing that, but wanted to feel a little more prestigious).
The second ceremony I had to attend that day was the Honors and Graduate School commencement in order to be recognized with the other Outstanding Graduates. I will spare you the agony of waiting to find out if I was actually chosen as the Overall Outstanding Graduate of my university…it went to Lan Pham of the College of Sciences.
However, as I sat through the ceremony I realized how epic it was to be a part of this particular program. There were three things that occurred that evening which I am so proud to know I was a part of.
First: George Rodrigue was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the university. He is a world-reknown artist that brought recognition to the Cajun lifestyle. He has humble origins and painted what he knew: culture and tradition under Oak trees. His version of the “Blue Dog” has become an international success. As someone who wants to write about my upbringing, I thought it was inspiring to be connected to this man in a ceremonial event.
Second: For the first time in UL history, all of the Outstanding Graduates were female. This, to me, shows the shift in the role of females in South Louisiana. Women are no longer just going to school to get their “MRS.’s”. The goal is no longer to just get married and start procreating. Women are taking their roles as educated citizens more seriously and raising the standards.
Third: Lan Pham, the Overall Outstanding Graduate has lived in America with her family for only 13 years. They moved from Vietnam to the small town of Abbeville, Louisiana in order to pursue the original American dream. During these cynical years of pessimistic American representation, it was so refreshing to be reminded of how our country started. There are people across the world who still understand what America was supposed to be founded upon. We sit back in our convenience and take for granted how fortunate we really are. Pham’s family told her as she grew up that she could do anything she wanted to do; and if you hear her list of accomplishments and contributions, it will humble you to the core.
As I left the Cajundome that evening as an alumnae of a university I was a part of for nine years, I realized I had absolutely no clue what was to take place next. I’m normally an emotional basket case for such monumental life events, but I didn’t shed a tear. When I graduated high school, I felt how over it was. I knew things were never going to be the same. However, I don’t feel like anything is really over. It’s just beginning…on a path unknown.