Human beings are so weird.
That’s what I thought while I observed the four deans, administration heads and whoever else they were up on stage for a honors ceremony. A reputable occasion, one where family comes together to celebrate an individual’s academic accomplishments. My parents live about three hours away, so instead I had one of my friends come–her support meant just as much.
I thought about how odd it was to have a paid quartet sit behind the four leading and unfamiliar faces of our college department. How we’re being recognized among strangers, that my peers were equally as puzzled as me throughout the whole process and questioning the point of it all. A bunch of nerds, I thought. A bunch of older nerds rewarding younger nerds to keep going.
I sat there dressed up in a suit for a good two hours hearing everyone’s name being called one-by-one. My toes felt incredibly squished by my black heels. Before the ceremony, we had to meet up in a different building to line up. I walked out of check-in with the number 5. I saw “Section 1,” then “Section 20” right beside it. I ended up walking around the whole building before realizing the number you got was your spot number (the section went to 150). At least it was good exercise and a good conversation starter.
While I was speaking to the “Top 5,” as I referred to them, we were all complaining about the woes of having X, Y and Z as our last name. “Maybe they’re going to do inverse order this time.”
A scientist deeply in love with infections and bacteria made a motivating speech, one about knowledge space and the grand journey bright scholars can embark on. He had his moment of jokes, appealing to both parents and students, but his love for science rambled on a bit too long for the average person. I personally found it to be educational. “Thank you for that uh, interesting speech,” the woman who read our names out loud said afterwards, who fumbled a little too much to cover her lack of interest.
“Yeah, real interesting,” the guy behind me said to a girl, drenched in sarcasm.
I wondered how fast I should walk, not too hurried but not too casual either. Seeing nervous and blushed faces made me feel more confident. I wondered if my heels would make click-clack sounds that resonate in the hall, if someone in the crowd will recognize me and why the air was so stuffy.
When it was my turn to go up to the dean, I shook his hand, took a picture and told him, “Hey, you’re almost done.” He gave me a strained smile and kind of muttered through his teeth.
“Yep, almost done.”
I wasn’t sure whether or not he was just tired from doing whatever deans do, or if he was tired of shaking the 150 people that were there and tired of the flash from the camera. It must be nice to feel like a celebrity.
Outside at the reception, there were clear glasses full of ice water, ice tea and lemonade. Rows of cheesecake squares, brownie cut sandwich-style and cookies were displayed on white tablecloths. I looked around and saw a bunch of older people– parents, grandparents, probably aunts and uncles with their kid– boyfriend, girlfriend, maybe even fiance. “I want a picture too,” I said to my friend. I don’t think she understood why.
“I just want one.”
I looked at the silvery folder handed to me by some white haired woman on stage. She was retiring this year and her contributions meant a lot to the university, but I don’t think anyone in the crowd knew who she was. Earlier in the day, during line up, she went around congratulating all of the students and encouraged us to strive forward. When I saw her, I thought of a random crazy grandma going around to strangers and just talking to them. With good intentions, of course.
I took out the content inside the folder, which was another folder containing two pieces of paper. “I waited two hours and a half for this?”
“Two hours and a half?”
“Okay, maybe two hours.” She nodded in acknowledgement. “I don’t think it’s worth it, having to wait that time just for pieces of paper.” She seemed hesitant to say something but remained quiet.
Then we found paper boxes painted as rubric cubes just out in the open. I stacked them up into a tower, not really sure if we were allowed to touch ’em but I figured it was interactive art. I stacked them up real high, taller than me.
We sat in the shade for a little while before going home, and then celebrated a friend’s birthday.