When I attend AU convocation this June, hundreds of my friends and family will be celebrating with me. As befitting a degree obtained mostly online, the convocation ceremony will be live-streamed so anyone can join in the celebration—wherever they are.
I finished the final course for my BGS degree several weeks ago, but I didn’t initially feel celebratory. I felt relieved—maybe a little satisfied—but mainly I just felt tired. I decided that celebrating could wait until convocation—that’s when everything would seem real.
Convocation was then over a month away. Beyond packing up my textbooks, there didn’t seem much to do but wait for the big day.
I forgot to factor in everyone else!
During the almost six years I spent completing my degree, I viewed it as a mostly solo journey. My pursuit of knowledge, my studies, my work, my time. Of course I realized I wasn’t completely alone. My husband was there every step of the way and experienced the second-hand effects of spousal stress, preoccupation, anxiety, along with periodic moments of elation. (He also experienced more than his fair share of meal prep, errands, and social duties.)
But just because I was buried in school work and barely noticing the world around me doesn’t mean I was as isolated as I sometimes felt.
The past few weeks I began to realize there were more people sharing my journey. I hadn’t realized how many people knew I was pursuing a degree at AU, or how interested they were in the outcome. I probably didn’t notice how often I talked about my studies—like a parent with a new baby, my studies tended to dominate my thoughts and conversation.
Now it seems that everyone I talk to wants to offer their congratulations. And it’s not just the Facebook-prompted congrats. A group of friends took me out for a surprise dinner to celebrate, my niece surprised me with the gift of a grad bear, an acquaintance wheeled into our driveway just to offer a congratulatory hug, my mother presented me with star-shaped earrings to wear to convocation. Even my writers’ group marked the occasion with a celebratory glass of wine at our monthly meeting. Graduating is starting to feel like a Big Deal—for more than just me.
Suddenly, everyone I talk to—at the library, at the bank, at the restaurant—is offering congratulations. After over five years of study, AU has come to define part of who I am. I realize that I’ve been an AU student for as long as some people have known me.
Apparently, my journey hasn’t been the solo trek I thought it was. Approaching convocation, I finally looked over my shoulder and found that there has been a parade gathering behind me, complete with marching bands and cheerleaders. Everyone is excited that I’ve finished my degree.
The final walk of my AU journey—across the stage in Athabasca to receive my degree—won’t be taken alone. Every step will be followed by my support team: family, friends, colleagues. The road to convocation was long—but it wasn’t as lonely as I thought.
It’s my degree—but it turns out it’s not all about me.