Diploma, See?

5 minutes
A still-damp Ben Luschen, Emily Luschen, and Luke Luschen celebrate Emily's graduation. Photo by Sherri Luschen

A still-damp Ben Luschen, Emily Luschen, and Luke Luschen celebrate Emily's graduation. Photo by Sherri Luschen

My mother, soaking wet with rainwater, proudly cheered as my sister crossed the graduation stage at Norman’s Lloyd Noble Center. Also sufficiently drenched, I unthinkingly flung tiny droplets at other families in our section while roaring and whooping and generally just trying to embarrass my little sister, Emily.

It’s not like we didn’t know it was going to rain. My sister’s previously scheduled outdoor ceremony was moved indoors for this very reason. My father, who probably watches three to four TV news forecasts per day, was all over the situation. Most importantly, this was the graduation ceremony for OU’s School of Meteorology, so the presence of adverse weather conditions should have been a foregone conclusion from the beginning.

Yet, the way we all stepped out of the car and into one of the heaviest rains in our recent memories, you’d have thought we were expecting a cloudless, 70-degree afternoon. We had no umbrellas, no jackets—totally unprepared. The uncovered walk from the parking lot to the entrance of the Lloyd Noble Center was at least 30 yards, and by the time we stepped up security it looked like we’d just been front row at SeaWorld. We were fine with it though; it’s not like we had other options.

“Sorry, sister, we turned the car around and missed your college graduation because none of us wanted to get wet.”

Graduations, in general, are weird events. It’s not clear to me for whom they’re intended: the graduate themselves or the graduate’s family? In my experience, it seems like both sides might say the other. Particularly from the family’s point of view, there is usually an awful lot of waiting through names you most likely have never heard before just to get to your person of interest. You might have to sit an hour or more through speeches, applause, and names upon names.

As cool as any of us think we are, or as precious as we think our time is, it is hard to deny the thrill of finally watching a relative, friend, or significant other cross the stage; the creeping anticipation as you watch them make their way down the line of fellow fancy gown-wearers toward the podium.

Our clothes were dampened, but our spirits were not. I was excited to see Emily graduate because I knew how much she sacrificed to get to that point. She transferred into OU after completing her basics at Oklahoma City Community College and graduates with no debt, having paid all her own tuition by saving up, living at home, and working as a math tutor. She landed a coveted meteorological research internship in Fort Collins, Colorado, last year before it was cancelled due to the pandemic. She was not sure whether the internship would be restored for this coming year until just a month ago. After her internship is over, she will continue grad school at OU, where she is being paid a stipend to assist on research of some science-y weather stuff that is quite literally over my head.

My sister is not unique—2021 graduates of all levels and backgrounds went through a lot before crossing their own stages this May. The ceremony is little more than a symbolic formality, but doggone it if you grads haven’t earned these roses. Take your victory lap and revel in the accomplishment. You deserve to be the star of the show.

Congratulations to all of the state’s 2021 graduates. Perhaps this is a scary time for you to enter a new chapter in the big, wide world, but things are looking up. Pandemic or not, an optimal time to step out into the unknown simply does not exist. That you crossed the stage at all is proof enough of your resilience. Stay confident, stay committed, and to the best of your ability, stay dry.

Written By
Ben Luschen

Ben Luschen
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