Convocation, upside-down style

I first became a McGill student in 1999.  From that moment until today, I never once received a phone call from McGill.  I was a nine digit number, a graduate student, a library borrower, an employee, even an alumna. While I’ve received hundreds and probably thousands of emails through the years, never once did I get a phone call from any branch of the Mighty McGill Bureaucracy.  Until today.  Today I got a phone call.  To my home.  On my land line.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t too personal.  There wasn’t an actual person at the other end.  It was a recording.  But still, it made me stop in my tracks.  Why was McGill calling me?  Had they decided at long last not to award me the PhD?  Had they discovered that I really am a fraud?  That my ideas were only okay, not nearly brilliant enough for a McGill PhD???  The gig was up??

Nope.  “They” were calling to tell me that the location of my convocation next week has been changed.  Instead of that long dreamed 0f white tent convocation, I, my friends, will be convocating in the Bell Centre.  Probably not even at Centre Ice.  The Powers that Be are worried about student demonstrations and so all convocations on main campus have been moved.  The truth?  I cried.  Just a little.  But I cried.  I’ve dreamed of this moment.  I even wrote a post about it last summer, anticipating my own turn in the white tent.  Now I have the Bell Centre to look forward to.  It’s petty and insignificant in the long run, but I feel cheated.  I felt cheated.

Now that I’ve had some time to adjust to the news, I’m working on adjusting my perspective.  Yes, I really wanted to graduate in that big white tent.  Yes, I am sad that my plans for next week are being re-written and altered.  Yes, I even want to cry just a little bit more about it.  But then it hit me.  I haven’t done any of this to plan.  Not one step of it.  My journey through the PhD has done anything but follow the map I originally laid out.  There have been changes, adaptations, extensions, withdrawals, babes, illness, breakdowns.  Yet, here I am.  At the end of the journey.  I made it.  I persevered.  I found new paths and had to stop more than once to get myself oriented.  But I did it.

Why should the convocation be any different?  It’s not what I expected.  It’s not particularly the way I would choose.  But it’s still convocation.    I will still walk across that stage (or slide depending on whether or not they keep the ice!) I will still shake the Principal’s hand (???!?!?!) And I still will be awarded my degree.  Just so happens that everything about the journey to that moment got flipped around, pulled inside out, and translated.  Convocation is just one more step in the process.

In August, K pulled home my thesis from the Print Shop.  That day I danced.

In November, I defended the thesis.  That day I did less dancing, more sleeping.


In February, I officially graduated.  That day I officially notified my College of my change of status.

Next week I will wear the red robe and black hat.  I will convocate.  Surrounded by the sweat of many a hockey player and many a rock star…from Neil Diamond to Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga.  It’s no front lawn of McGill but it will do.