Last weekend, in the crowded halls of Sunway Resort Hotel, amidst the flower peddlers and camera flashes, laughter and smiling family members, I went through one of the most important experiences in my early-twenties life. I finally, finally graduated from university! After four years of gruelling undergraduate studies, you won't believe how glad I am to be done with it. No more clashing assignment deadlines, no more cramming for final exams, no more early morning lectures - hallelujah!
But having a 4-month gap in between my actual end of semester and my graduation means I'd already experienced most of my joy months ago. When faced with my actual graduation ceremony, I was less gleeful and mostly anxious. And oh boy, did I worry. I fretted whether my dress would match my robe, whether I would trip in my heels on stage, if I would be seated next to classmate I knew but didn't really talk to, et cetera et cetera.
I even considered the possibility that I was going to puke from all the pent up nervous energy, but thankfully, everything went smoothly. As the way things usually work with me, it all turned out a lot less worse than I imagined. The only side effect is that I'm officially graduated from university now. How do I feel?
Admittedly, a little overwhelmed, regretful and anxious still, but also very grateful and mostly excited to tackle the rest of my life. I was surprised that I actually felt nostalgic, despite having made very few memories in this institution, and yet the emotions caught up to me. One shouldn't undermine the symbolism of a ceremony like this, I realise. Even though I'm already working some freelance projects, there was something about going on stage and shaking the chancellor's hand that screamed, "I'm not a freeloading child any longer, I'm now a rent-paying adult!"
I know my family is excited about that last part, at least. All things considered, I kept my graduation rather hush hush, but my grandfather, especially, made sure to take the liberty to announce it to the world. Eventually it wasn't just our family that came to know about it, it was his friends and old classmates, the uncle at the ba kut teh shop and the pharmacist at the shopping mall. "My eldest granddaughter is graduating!", he'd proclaim in his booming voice. Talk about the most Asian way of showing off possible. My mother even joked that he was more excited for it than I was. She was mostly right.
On the day of my graduation, my parents were the ones who wouldn't stop taking pictures and videos of me and sending it to all my family group chats. My phone buzzed with congratulations as I wrung my hands in anxiousness waiting for my turn to go onstage. It continued buzzing as I sighed in boredom waiting for the guest speaker to impart his last bits of wisdom. It buzzed in my pocket when some of my friends showed up with sunflowers and a teddy bear, and when I got swindled out of money by photographers, and when I was scarfing down curry puffs at the refreshments counter.
It only stopped later in the night, when my family bought me dinner to celebrate and invited all my closest relatives to join us. I see these people all the time, but having them all gathered in a place a little bit fancier than usual, dressed up a little bit nicer than usual, and all wanting to take pictures with and congratulate me (in person this time), that's when the emotions really hit me, and my heart felt extremely warm that night.
I woke up the next day to the sight of my graduation bouquets, arranged neatly in vases, sunflowers beaming at me and reminding me of the great day I had. It made me realise how many people love me and consider me an important person in their lives. Even though I made every effort to downplay my graduation celebrations (to soothe the anxiousness in my mind), there were still people who wanted to celebrate for me and with me. I'm really grateful that there's people like that in my life.
It also made me think about what a milestone graduating is, not just personally but also for my family. I really meant it when they were excited about me becoming a "rent-paying adult", and as they push me not-so-subtly towards good companies and positions and salaries, I know what exactly they're trying to imply. I know now, the decisions I make from here on out don't only affect me, it affects my family and loved ones too. That is something I still have to get used to, and maybe I'll blog about it sometime in the future.
For now, I'm just soaking in the post-graduate feelings while I still can. I don't have much of my break left, since in a few days, I'll officially begin working at this company... and well, life isn't slowing down for anyone, especially me.