April 18, 2011 § 5 Comments
This story starts on Wednesday, March 2. The J-school sent out the list of May graduates so that we could verify our names and honors. I downloaded the document but didn’t bother looking at it. I didn’t have any honors or a weird name, and my four-year graduation plan had been in place since day one, so there couldn’t have been any problems.
The next morning, my roommate SA asked me, “Have you checked out the graduation list yet?”
“No,” I replied somewhat guiltily.
“My name’s not on there,” she said. “You should definitely take a look for yours.”
So I did, and I didn’t find my name among the graduates. Silly J-school…always messing things up. I wrote a simple email to my advisor and asked him to fix the situation. He soon replied, saying that I had been added to the list. No big deal.
That Friday, MU Bookstore was having its Graduation Fair, which I thought were the only two days graduating seniors would be able to purchase graduation materials [I guess I was wrong, but I’m still not sure what the point of the event was]. I stood in line in the lower level of the bookstore to receive my cap, gown and tassel, which cost a total of $60. It seemed like an exorbitant price to me, so I actually called my mother to make sure she would be okay with this purchase. She was at work.
“Yeah, that’s fine,” she said as her preschool class chattered in the background.
Back at my apartment, I discarded the bag of stuff on the floor of my bedroom and went about other business. I wasn’t ready to face the reality of graduation just yet — it was merely a lingering thought in the back of mind that I suppressed every time somebody asked about my post-graduation plans.
On the following Monday, I had a one-on-one meeting with my IV staff worker to catch up on life.
“Do you have any prayer requests?” he asked at the end. I honestly couldn’t think of any. The previous weeks had been mediocre: no impressionable highs, not many lows. I wasn’t going anywhere spiritually, either; I had lost my Bible, and he gladly gave me a new one at our meeting.
After our meeting, I sat at a table in the student center with some other friends and popped open my laptop to check my email. I had received an email from one of the J-school advisors:
Missing Social Science Requirement
It appears you are missing a 3000 level Social Science, i.e. History, Economics, Geography or Political Science credit.
The system currently lists you as a fall 2011 graduate but if you pick up one of the above courses summer term you could be listed as a summer grad in the Graduation Program.
Please speak with your academic advisor. Thank you.
The blood drained from my face, and I became light-headed. This could not be real. I glanced up at my friends, who were studying silently, and skimmed back over the email. It appears you are missing…system currently lists you as a fall 2011 graduate….
It took all of my willpower not to break down crying right then and there.
Another friend came over to our table. “I’ve just had the most stressful day ever,” she vented. We listened as she rattled off the events of her day, but all I could think was that her day couldn’t compare to what just happened to me. At least she survived.
After sending an urgent SOS email to my advisor, I closed my laptop and pulled out my new Bible. I tend to turn to Psalms when I’m distressed, so I flipped to Psalm 69 and tried to calm down. I then had to leave to have dinner with a friend, so I pushed my perturbed thoughts to the back of my mind in order to enjoy a few hours of cooking and conversation.
When I got home later that night, roommate CP and I chatted about the troubles of the future of Asian American Association, of which she is the outgoing president. As I washed dishes and she cooked dinner, I felt the urge to share my worries as well. I couldn’t keep from crying as I told her about my doomed graduation.
I very rarely cry in public, and I had never cried in front of CP before, so it was a strange and gloomy experience. We were both lugubrious that night, and as she sat in the living room eating dinner and I cleaned my room, I played “Abandon” by The Vine Band on repeat:
“It feels like we’re on a TV show, and this is the soundtrack to our dramatic lives,” CP said. I agreed, chuckling somberly.
All that I am, I will abandon to You
Graduation hadn’t been a big deal to me until the possibility was torn from my hands. It was a dream, a goal that I had and that my parents had for probably more than a decade. I carefully laid out my four-year plan since first stepping foot onto this campus, and now it was in shambles.
There was no way I was going to stay here for the summer, much less another fall semester. And I couldn’t tell anyone. I had told all of my friends that I was graduating this May, and the shame of being wrong almost outweighed the inconvenience of the matter. What would my parents say? How could I be this irresponsible?
I was also kicking myself for not noticing this sooner. Any J-school student here would tell you that it’s a pain in the butt to schedule an appointment in the advising office, so after turning in my graduation application last semester, I figured that I was in the clear. At the beginning of this semester, I had thought about checking in with my advisor just to be safe, but whenever I passed by the office, I always told myself that I didn’t need to step inside. And now it came to this.
I looked at the bag containing my graduation cap & gown, which lay on the floor where I had left it days ago. What could I do with it if I couldn’t graduate? I decided to return the gown and ask around to borrow one from someone who had already graduated. I texted JZ to ask her if she still had her gown and went to sleep, still despondent.
The next morning while I was still in bed, I received a text. I blearily checked to see who sent it – JZ — and went back to sleep. When I woke up and actually read the message, it had nothing to do with a graduation gown:
My friend’s US Marshal fiancé and his partner were shot this morning. He seems to be in really bad shape. Would be great if you could share the prayer request around.
It was a sobering reminder that no matter how bad I thought I had it, somebody else always had it worse. At least I was alive.
The graduation advisor had emailed me back to tell me that I could pick up an online summer course and be considered a summer graduate, which meant that I would still walk in the May 13th ceremony. I figured that would be the best possible option, but I didn’t know how to sign up for online courses, and I still didn’t know how to break the news to my parents. I definitely didn’t want to tell them anything until I got everything figured out.
I finally went to the advising office to set up an appointment with my advisor, but the soonest available date was on March 21 — literally two weeks away. This is the very reason I hate making advising appointments: As much as I love my advisor, his schedule is always crammed to the brim.
That day, I also called my mother to ask her about returning my graduation gown. I don’t normally ask her advice for anything, so I’m not quite sure what I was hoping to get out of it. Maybe I’m still subconsciously holding out for the maternal reassurance I’ve lacked for most of my life. I told her that it would save money to return the gown, but she told me to keep it “as a souvenir because you’re not going to grad school anyway, even though I still hope you will.”
Vindicated, I decided that all I could do was wait around for my advising appointment to come up so that I could resolve this issue in time to tell my parents about it over spring break.
On Friday, a major earthquake rocked Japan. Among other things, it was another indication that my problems were so incredibly insignificant. The whole week was an exercise in humility.
When my advising appointment finally rolled around, my advisor greeted me with a smile and some good news.
“I’ve been taking a look at your records,” he said as we sat in his office. “The Korean Unification class you’re taking now is listed as a humanities course, but in reading the course description, it sounds more like a social science course than anything else. I’ve asked the people in charge of the curriculum if it can count as your missing credit, and I’ll hear back from them soon, hopefully.”
My hopes rose, and I rolled my eyes at the irony. The reason I chose this Korean Unification class was because I thought I needed a humanities course. I had desperately wanted to take a film studies or creative writing course instead to fulfill the humanities credits, but none of them fit into my schedule [AKA they were all too early lol], so I settled on Korean Unification. And now it might not be humanities after all? Thank the heavens! And thank goodness I didn’t end up with a film studies class!
I crossed my fingers and fervently hoped for the best, but I prepared myself for bad news when my advisor hadn’t gotten back to me by the time I went home for spring break. I emailed him again on Friday just to make sure he hadn’t forgotten about me — after all, I did want to tell my parents in person.
An hour before we left for the airport on Saturday night, I checked my school email again. Egads! An email from my advisor!
Good news friend! We will count the Korean 4220 as your remaining social science! So, I am changing your graduation date back to May!
It would be an understatement to say I was elated and relieved. I could embark on our vacation worry-free!
From an outside perspective, it might seem like this whole situation was a waste of time, that all the stress was for nothing. But I think the eventual resolution was a clear statement from God. Trust in Me, and only Me. The prospective of a cancelled graduation kick-started my lethargic spiritual life again, which I sorely needed. I had forgotten about God’s willingness to do amazing things in my life, just as I had forgotten about His ability to take valuable things away.
I haven’t decided whether to tell my parents or not. I don’t really have to anymore, and seeing as how I’ve already devoted 1900 words to describing the somewhat complex situation, I feel like I would confuse them more than anything. In any case, I’m back on track. Graduation is in 25 days!!!!