30 minutes into many modern rom-coms or chick flicks you are presented with a time lapse, to show the progression of a character from their youth to their adulthood. That upbeat 90s song begins to build, and they show a small innocent child in an oversized blazer that oozes with cuteness. As the song progresses the next few images are the awkward teenage years, filled with braces, spots, and off beat dance moves. But the next flash is the graduation flash. It is always the turning point in the time lapse where the main character nervously clutches their scroll, tilts their hat and tries not to blink. Then the next image, often the final image, is a fat 40 year old loser lying on a sofa (at least in the 40 year old Virgin thats how it goes), and I am slightly fearful as my graduation snap has now been and gone. I am not ready for the sofa.
Hours and hours of re-writing my textbooks, psychopathic sleep patterns, copious cups of disgustingly cheap coffee, for what? Two pieces of paper? One saying my full name and my degree title, and one with 28 grades over a 4 year time span. The scroll failed to for fill me with a sense of pride and achievement, and if I am being honest neither did the £45 rental dementor-like gown that covered the entirety of my beautiful graduation dress. Looking back I could of walked across the stage stark naked under that wizard cloak. I am sad to say that even when I shook the deans hand and stomped across the stage in my high heels, I glanced back to catch my fathers eye, still searching for this acclaimed feeling of satisfaction and success.
Reflecting on my graduation flash it is now clear that there is not one specific moment, ceremony or award that can really condense and express 4 years of university achievement, and it was certainly not going to be done through shaking a random academics hand and getting two pieces of paper. Now sitting on this long train journey back to Edinburgh I can appreciate it was a pleasant day, and a significant one in my time lapse, but I still have a lot more to achieve.
For anyone graduating in the upcoming years, I have a few thoughts and tips to share. Do not go out the night before and let your mother request songs in indy-rock bars. Firstly, they wont have the songs she wants, and secondly she will be late for your gown and ticket collection and it is stressful navigating older people through a University. When you do finally get your moment on the stage, take your time. Bow, curtsy, salute the prize giver, whatever you want, because you will never, ever, get to do it again. Look back to your parents, friends, teachers, and smile, because they have been clapping for hours and most likely want to see your face and not just your hair. When your done, get champagne with your parents. They need to celebrate no more mysterious deposits disappearing, no more “ski trip subs,” no more iPhone insurance claims and no more essays to skim read. They are now just as free as you are, financially and mentally.
Finally, hug your course mates, housemates, hall friends, any friends that are there on that day with you. They have been a part of one of the most important snaps of your time lapse, and you may not see them again for a very long time. You may even need them in the future, so best give them the hug and not the awkward wave.