What was supposed to be one of the memorable moments of my life, College Graduation, will certainly be that-but not for the right reasons.
The first day of graduation began with a dreadful wake up at 8:30am (not so late for a student) with, of course, my alarm that sounds like a nuclear meltdown is taking place inside my bedroom. Despite this, however, it was going to be a beautiful day- Kate and I coordinated shower times the night prior and morning routines were ahead of schedule. The BBQ that night, we knew, would be perfect because the weather. Anyway, to skip the lofty detail, graduation was short and sweet. The reception and parental unit banter in the smokey courtyard amused us and although tired, we were content. My dad talked up everyone and I think the parents got more drunk than us. One, fell asleep listening to music on his son’s bed. Priceless.
Now, I’ll get into what made Friday dark. Let me preface this by saying that every graduation or important event in my life wherein my Mother plays a role, has failed miserably. She has a history of making things about her even in a subtle way and disappointing me. I won’t drag my therapy sessions on this blog-but know that this is one of the milder ways that she has disappointed me.
That morning, I called my sister. I entrusted the responsibility to my sister to coordinate with my mother and stepfather so that she could give them my graduation tickets and help my mother due to her hurt back. My mother made arrangements with my school for a wheelchair and to sit in the disabled section. It bothered me when she did this because I know my mother to exaggerate, but nonetheless, arrangements were made (as usual to accommodate her). Therefore, the three of them would take a cab and come to my graduation-to which I would receive frequent spontaneous calls about to ensure the plans were set and details taken care of. Whatever.
I called my sister. Apparently, my mother was looking for her shoes and although she found them, she hurt her back (she claims). She decided not to come to my graduation. She decided not to call me. No one called me. Did I mention my only motivation to go to graduation part two was because I knew my mother wanted to be there? (or so I thought). I called her and went off on her a bit-but in a reasonable mature way. She had nothing to say for herself, hung up on me, and would not pick up the phone. All this before 1pm. I was supposed to be at Madison Square Garden at 1:15PM.
Graduation happened. Eventually, my sister and stepfather met up with me on the corner. But, Arnold, my stepfather, barely said congratulations to me or spoke. He stared at me like a deer in headlights and offered nothing. No words of encouragement. No excitement. No life. No photos were taken. No plans for lunch. No card. No present. Not even a smile. He itched to leave and then did five minutes later.
My sister stuck around for a bit but since everything fell apart and she had little time before she had to run an important errand deep in Brooklyn, I let my sister go- this was ten minutes later.
So, there I was, black hat and gown, tassel stringing across my face in the wind, blue suit and senatorial tie and all. Alone. Alone in a sea of families taking pictures, holding flowers and balloons, discussing plans and giving kisses. I was trying to hold back the tears and did. I smoked two cigarettes and walked from Madison Square Garden to 14th and sixth and decided to buy myself lunch. I rewarded myself with a bacon blue cheese burger with sweet potato fries and a diet coke. It was heavenly but I was still alone.
It’s funny that 9 complete strangers wished me congratulations and smiled at me enthusiastically on my way to Good Stuff diner. Strangers were more comforting than my own family. Strangers cared enough to notice that it was an important day in my life. One even asked me why I was alone. I had no idea. I was just as confused.
Graduation day part two made me realize that Peace Corps is going to such an experience because I will be judged not on what I say-but what I do. The promises I keep and the ways in which I listen, respect, observe, and interact. A series of exchanges. A series of moments of learning how to be a better person and what person I want to be. I know that I will feel alone sometimes-without friends and without bacon blue cheeseburgers. I know that not everyone will be considerate and that I may lose myself for a bit. But, I also know that I don’t have to be alone. I will have a host family. I will make friends who will become my family.
You can’t change blood. It is instilled. Even in death, the connection remains. But, our family doesn’t mark you. It doesn’t dictate the kind of person you will be. The logic of the family where there is unconditional love,respect, and forgiveness only works when it is reciprocal. There is coordination. I hope that my role as a Business Advisor in Mali (yes, I got the invitation! Woot!) will help weave me into the fabric of the community. I hope to connect and be worthy of a place within my village community- but this will only happen if I am honorable and prove through my actions that I am.
Next entry I will write about my lovely invitation kit and the next steps in my Peace Corps journey.