New Beginnings

I had no intention of going.

It is a somewhat momentous occasion in many adult lives and I originally had no interest in even participating in the graduation ceremony.

At the advice of my wife, however, I hesitantly agreed to go; boy, was I glad that I did.

This past Sunday – on Mother’s Day, no less – I participated in my graduation ceremony at Marywood University in Scranton and walked to receive my master’s degree in communication arts.

I suppose I didn’t think I’d enjoy the occasion as much as I did because of the way I viewed the whole process while I was pursuing the degree.

Throughout the past two years, I had a specific frame of mind: get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible, so I could earn the degree and move on with my life.

I certainly wasn’t attending college to create memories and develop new relationships – probably a poor way of viewing any experience. Despite this, I managed to achieve both without realizing I was doing so.

I look back on it now and wish I had relished more of the experience instead of viewing each semester as a “means to an end.” I realized this past Sunday, however, how much those two years really did mean to me. In spite of myself, I had a rewarding and memorable college experience.

When I walked out into the arena with my fellow graduates and witnessed thousands of people cheering on their family members and friends, I couldn’t help but be awed by the situation.

I felt like a rock star.

Granted, out of the thousands of people in attendance, only a handful of close family members were cheering for me, but at the time that meant nothing to the honor of the moment.

I looked up to pick out family members, and once I did, shot them a large smile and a big wave. These were just some of the people who support me unconditionally in everything that I do; in keeping with this, they even agreed to attend an obnoxiously long ceremony just to watch me walk across a stage and be handed a piece of paper.

I saw a wife who stood by me for years while I stressed over tests, papers and my thesis, undoubtedly dealing with the brunt of my temper tantrums. No matter how hard times got, even when my schooling meant we had to temporarily live apart, she was constantly my rock.

I saw my parents, who always pushed me to achieve more in education. My dad, who each day from elementary school through high school required me to report three new things I’d learned that day. My mom, who always reassured me I was doing the right thing by continuing my education, despite almost constant doubt of what it would all really mean.

My grandmother, who stood beaming in support of her grandson. I looked at her and thought of my grandfather, who was so proud of all of his grandchildren and their achievements. He would have given me a sturdy pat on the back, cleared his throat and simply said, “Yeah, good job, Ryan.”

Lastly, I saw a father-in-law who decided it was important enough to sit through a three-hour ceremony despite hating every second of it, I’m sure. To his credit, I heard he only fell asleep once or twice.

When I saw all of this and experienced the wealth of emotions that came along with it, I knew my wife was right when she persuaded me to attend.

I suppose she gets it right at least some of the time.

Beardsley, a native of Loyalsock Township, was a former Sun-Gazette reporter.