SUNDAY #33 – Graduation

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I would’ve published this earlier, but I was helping my Dad manoeuvre my new shelves upstairs to my bedroom. Top Tip: you’re not a proper Literature graduate until you’ve got a stunning set of bookshelves.

6 years ago, I received a parcel filled with materials for my first Open University short-course: ‘Start Writing Poetry’. I tore away the cardboard packaging, and began reading the course materials immediately. I absorbed everything on the page – for 3 months I rhymed and read my way through some remarkable literature.

Today, I couldn’t tell you any details of what I wrote, or what was written in the educational booklets – but that’s because I’ve studied 7 full-courses since those nervous first days as an Open University student. My mind’s been flooded with everything from Virginia Woolf to Roald Dahl.

Yesterday, I saw my efforts as an O.U student blossom before my eyes in London, during my graduation ceremony at The Barbican Centre. My first-class degree in English Literature has been officiated – and I am bleedin’ chuffed to pieces about it.

For 24 hours, I unashamedly strutted everywhere. From my doorstep, to The Barbican, to Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant; my day was filled with untainted self-confidence, and overwhelming gratitude. The moment the robes rested on my shoulders, I couldn’t stop smiling. I refused to let my face take a break. Occasionally, my rush of achievement transformed into a rush of tears, but I managed to suck the water droplets back in before going up on to the stage.

I awoke this morning still high on pride (and champagne bubbles). All that’s left to do is coat the necessary people in gratitude:

Thank you to the woman two seats to my left who offered me her water when I had an unexpected choking fit at the start of the ceremony.

Thank you to my younger sister Sarah, who spent the whole day trying to get ‘natural’ photographs of me, because whenever I have to pose I ‘do a Chandler Bing’ from Friends and freak out.

Thank you to my parents, who have looked after me in every way since 25th May 1990. They are the funniest, most genuine, patient, compassionate people, and I continuously take them for granted.

Thank you to my family & friends who sent messages, cards, or bought me booze so my day could be filled with beauty and alcoholic bubbles.

And of course, Thank you to The Open University, for helping me to fulfil my educational aspirations, and for recognising the struggles of being an O.U student (and more importantly, using humour to deflect them).

When I flunked out of University at 18, I still desperately wanted to achieve a degree and graduate. On a tough day; the visualisation of my bob gracing the stage of The Barbican Centre kept me going. Finally, I have completed this marathon of achievement and I feel ready for whatever happens next.

Perhaps it’ll be a stellar career, travelling, or more binge-drinking at festivals? It will all be glorious, but it will not top becoming an O.U graduate. Keep your weddings, Christmas’, and trips to The Ritz (I’ve been twice) – because graduating from The Open University is an unbeatable experience, and the memory of it will illuminate the rest of my days.

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