“The Riddle of the Model” and Graduation

Graduation is weird. I think it’s supposed to be this big, grandiose, sad, amazing, gratifying, powerful, “all of the feels” event, but mostly, it’s weird.

Maybe it still hasn’t sunken in yet that I’m done my undergrad career. I should probably preface this article by noting that, excluding birthdays, I am bad at milestones. Riding a two-wheeler bike for the first time was a pretty big deal. But my high school graduation ceremony? Hated. College acceptance letters? As much as I loved and wanted to go to Arcadia University, there was no jumping up and down. Getting my driver’s license and enduring the car search that would never end? Ugh.

Which might make it seem like I’m unappreciative of the various opportunities I’ve had. That’s not my intention. I know I’ve been extremely lucky and privileged. I have had a fantastic education. It’s the standardized approach to meeting these milestones that’s always rubbed me the wrong way. Traditions are great, and there is nothing wrong with people having rituals for commemorating the big events in their lives. What’s wrong is when society expects you to adhere to these rituals because “that’s what people do;” because it’s popular. It’s popular, for example, for people to throw parties to commemorate their hard-worked for achievements. That doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to throw one just because people expect you to. Similarly, while there is nothing wrong with commencement being associated with feelings of excitement and pride, if you’re not quite at those emotions yet, that’s ok, too. Graduation is a big deal but it also means different things to different people. Thus. while on paper, my mom surprising me with a DVD from Amazon should be less exciting than my college diploma arriving in the mail, the reality is season 1 of The 100 wins every time. That’s ok. Graduation doesn’t have to come one-size fits all.

It also doesn’t have to come in the shape of an official graduation ceremony. The reason my diploma is being delivered via postal service is I’ve decided to skip my undergraduate commencement this year. It’s a bit of a controversial decision. The truth, though, is I could basically do anything else that day — go to the movies, have a nice lunch, sit at home with my TV shows in my fancy dress, and it would mean more to me than standing in the sun in an unflattering hat (and I love hats). That’s who I am. And I kinda like that ‘weird,’ strange person.

Graduation isn’t all meaningless, either. It means I’m never going to have another course with some of the profoundly awesome professors I’ve met during my semesters here. It means I won’t be seeing a lot of familiar faces. In almost every class I’ve taken over the years there’s been a handful of people I thought would have been cool to get to know better, who I’ve said, “Hi!” to once, or that I’ve spoken with occasionally. I’m really bad at starting conversations, so saying “you know who you are” isn’t guaranteed to get me any recognition. I’m sorry for that. You all were really nice.

Graduation also means facing the big question of, “What in the world is going to happen next?” I’ve never been one to snub the chance for some free time, but now with the career search in full swing, having a cleared up calendar is going to be bittersweet. I’m optimistic about what future employment could bring. The process of looking, however, is a black hole.

And finally, graduation means Sing Street.

Seeing the world through pop culture glasses has been my superpower since I decided the Powerpuff Girls and Pikachu occupied the same universe and could sit next to me on the school bus. I truly believe there’s nothing that can’t be enhanced, clarified, or made better through a TV or film reference, and with graduation, Sing Street, the recent joyful release about boy meets girl and asks her if she’d like to be the model in the band he hasn’t got yet, fits the bill perfectly. I’ve been listening to the film’s soundtrack of 80’s hits and catchy originals to keep pumped during finals week and, as usually comes from listening to a CD nonstop, you start to catch more and more of the lyrics.

“Cos’ what if everything’s beautiful fiction / And this reality’s just pretend?”

This question haunts English majors. It nags graduates. But it gets one thing right: Fiction is beautiful. It’s also, funnily enough, made by humans. Everywhere in the world someone’s reality is creating and talking about this beautiful stuff we call art for a living. It’s the kind of reality I hope to share one day.

After all,

“This is your life / You can be anything / You gotta learn to rock and roll it / You gotta put the pedal down / And Drive It Like You Stole It!”

Drive it like you stole it, class of 2016. Sing Street doesn’t lie.

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