This week see’s Bangor presented with all the brass-work polished, the carpets cleaned, and the flowers in bloom. Hordes of parents descend upon the College on the Hill, full of excitement and pride, as students face the culmination of their studies. With one fell wave of the Vice-Chancellor’s hat, students turn into graduates.
Thinking back on my graduation, now one year ago, I remember vividly the emotions I felt in the grand PJ Hall. Excitement at seeing my parents (in Bangor for the first time ever), nervousness lest my hood become skewif, happiness at having achieved a first class degree, apprehensiveness about life in the real world, sadness for friends dissappearing forever, loneliness at a soul mate soon to be the other end of the M62, concern that I might fall down the stairs, and all of this under an umbrella of nostalgia.
I had 3 amazing years at University, and being in Bangor allowed me to do things that I could only have dreamed of if I had not re-entered education. Beyond the skills I learnt on my degree, I was able to perform on stage with Phill Jupitus, set up an annual medieval festival in Beaumaris town and castle, act, tech, and direct, set up a comedy society, work at the Edinburgh Fringe, and, most importantly, make friendships that will last me a lifetime.
In fact, the thing that excites me most about this week is having the honour of sitting on stage as many close friends take the same steps I have taken into the real world. I feel blessed to be able to witness these special moments, to be able to know that I was there when their University journeys came to a single, dramatic ending.
So, to all those graduating, congratulations. You have worked hard to get where you are now, so enjoy the moment, bask in the love of those who surround you, and allow that to carry you into a brave new world.
One final thought. As I look back on my graduation, and reflect upon its significance in life, I am struck by the effect it will have on parents. To have cherished a child from their entry to the world, to have provided love, care, and support along each step of the world, to watch children blossom and grow as human beings, to watch them fly the nest for University, to have been there when times were tough, and witnessed the transformational power of education, to be able to witness your children’s graduation strikes me as being nothing less than the very pinnacle of our life upon this planet. I am proud, then, that Bangor ends its graduation ceremonies with staff and students giving a standing ovation to parents, for those that want for nothing but the best for us. The thoughts that must fly through their heads! Of happiness, and of selfless support, emotions perhaps best personified in “Bring him home”, a haunting song from Les Mis.
So… Onwards and upwards, my friends, onwards and ever upwards.