Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pomp and Circumstance

(me, my bro, and his fiancee')
It happened! I have graduated from my beloved Marylhurst, and am proud to say that I went out with a bang, having the great honor of being one of three student speakers at the event held at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall in downtown Portland. Giving this speech was one of the most memorable events of my life. There before me was a full house at the "Schnitz"-- as full as it was the night David Sedaris gave a packed-night's reading, as full as it was when I saw Chris Isaak there a few years back, let me tell 'ya, it was full! ... yet when I was in the glare of the lights, I felt something take over (my alter-ego? nerves beyond the bearable?). I saw the faces of all the people who came to celebrate with me, and felt utter support and love, and it was all good. The speech, the day, the almost unbearable amount of praise and pride ... I was walking on air. It occurred about 20 years later than it should have, but therefore was infinitely more rewarding.

When I was in my mid-20s I worked at a downtown Pasadena church. A woman there (who died more than a decade ago now) took a liking to me, insisted I had intellectual potential and would often badger me about returning to college. She'd shake her head at my excuses, argue with my protestations that I was "too old," assert that I was aging whether I returned to school or not. I'd convinced myself that college was merely "a piece of paper," and I felt I couldn't swing being good at my fulltime job, and good at my studies. She'd gaze at me wisely and explain that an education was much, much more than a degree. That it had to do with something she sensed inside of me, a way in which I was avoiding challenging my own intellect. It was a challenge, a goal to chip away at in order to find the treasure trove. I've never had the patience to set or reach long-term goals.

I'm not saying that I haven't learned oodles simply from living, and I know people who are fiercely intelligent and competent without anything in the way of a formal education. Some people don't need college, but we all need to reflect, reassess, and strive for something with fortitude.

As I suggested in my graduation speech, there is something in the way of permission to contemplate which occurs in the engagement of college-level material that gives us a bit of a pause ... encourages a place of patient recognition of diversity and options. I have grown, and continue to grow, toward a much more reflective thinker, and a more compassionate person.

So Alice Kenison, whose daughter tragicaly died very young (and who hoped for me as I suspected she would have hoped for her own daughter), and who never saw the fruits of those seeds of ambition she planted in my head years and years ago at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, thank you for believing in me when I had no faith in myself as anything more than an attempt at eye-candy. You wedged something in there, and now the accomplishment of Highest Honors and that coveted B.A., has helped me recognize that the heart of this woman was always stymied by the lack of confidence in my forgotten head. This one was for you, Alice!