I sat in the courtyard at the School of Education with my two best friends from graduate school on either side of me, the three of us waiting patiently for our program to be called up to receive our degrees. I kept telling my friend Gillian that I wouldn’t believe I had completed all the requirements for my degree until I had the piece of paper in my hands. Then my name was called, I shook hands with the dean, hugged my professors, and sat back down. The deed was done; the degree was conferred.
Walking to the School of Education with my cohort to receive our degrees
And now I sit here again looking at my master’s degree, realizing that this piece of paper is supposed to represent the culmination of my graduate school experience, and also realizing that the piece of paper is inadequate in that way. It doesn’t describe reading sundry books or writing papers, working at different jobs, talking with supervisors and professors and friends, or sitting through different classes. The degree tells you what you earned, but it doesn’t explain how it happened.
I have to learn to read between the lines of my diploma because it can’t possibly have room to explain all that happened. The degree is sort of like a plane ticket. A plane ticket doesn’t tell you what happened, but it tells you where you’ve come from and where you’re headed. Of course, my diploma doesn’t list my next destination, but it does denote that I am ready for the next step because I need to have a master’s degree for my next job.
Right now, I’m still processing that the next step for me does not involve living in Williamsburg or being a student, as it has the past few years. Yet as I flip back through the pages of my journal, which aren’t as filled as I wish they were, I remember that I am ready for what’s next – not necessarily because of the moment in which my degree was conferred but because of all the small, beautiful moments of growth that occurred beforehand. These moments show that, like Henry David Thoreau, I tried to “suck out all the marrow of life” at William & Mary. Now, it’s on to the next adventure.