A couple weeks ago, I was invited to attend my highschool commencement. It was on a Thursday evening, but since I’m originally from London, the mid-week ceremony posed no problem for me. It wasn’t yet midterm season, so that wasn’t in my way either.
I didn’t go.
My primary excuse whenever anyone asked me why I wasn’t going was that I had class. And that was true. And although the professor takes attendance every week, he is very accommodating, and would have been completely understanding if I wanted to miss that class. In fact, one of my friends in that course was allowed to miss class so he could go to our commencement.
My parents didn’t care whether I went or not. They said it was my decision, and that they would support whatever I decided. For them, commencement hadn’t been a big deal growing up in Australia. My friends continually tried to persuade me to go, but I kept refusing.
The North-American idea of success is very convoluted. People told me that I should be celebrating my achievement, and that since I’d made it all the way through highschool, I deserved to be recognized for that.
I graduated highschool, which, sure, is an achievement. I passed all my classes, made honor roll every year, and even ended up with a special award or two during my time. I don’t deny that I was successful.
I just don’t see the need to prance across a stage to announce it. Whether or not I go to commencement, I’ve still graduated. Whether or not my friends and family hear about me graduating is irrelevant to my achievement.
It’s a very North-American idea that to actually have achieved something, other people need to know about it. You have to tell people, and receive congratulations, and have a party. Most people attend their graduation, and if they don’t, it’s usually because they can’t get back to their hometown for whatever reason.
My continued acceptance to Western proves that I’ve achieved something in my life, and while others may not recognize that as a success, I do. Everything I do demonstrates how far I’ve gotten in life, and what my potential is. I don’t need everyone around me to be aware of how awesome I am to still be awesome.
Part of me wishes I had gone to commencement. One of my best friends graduated from the developmentally disabled program this year, a huge milestone for her. If nothing else, I wish I had gone to see that.
I also wish I could have met up with some of my old teachers, but that’s an egocentric wish, as I wanted to demonstrate to my teachers how I was taking what they’d taught me and applying it in new ways, and was rocking this whole university thing. But I can always meet up with them another time, and they have plenty of current students to keep them occupied.
I think this self-centred view of success comes from the very roots of our culture. Our culture has taught us to think of ourselves first, and that we must be the best at everything. Part of this is letting everyone know that you’re the best.
I love going to Western. It’s fantastic. It’s all the acknowledgement and congratulations I need for my continued success.