Is it strange that this is my favourite grad photo? Just me being my goofy self, trying to have fun with it all, trying not to take the whole thing TOO seriously.
Here’s the scoop:
Four days ago, I officially graduated from University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a minor in International Studies.
I had a fantastic day, celebrated only with my immediate family, anything else would have truly overwhelmed me.
I can’t tell you how hard it was to actually get myself to the convocation ceremony.
It was just so much to take in – that this was actually happening – after 21 years.
My mum drove with me, and the rest of my family followed. Josh and the boys joined us just before the ceremony began.
We left the house at 6:15am, all dawled up and looking pretty. I had been piecing together my outfit from amazing Value Village finds and things I already had. God even cares about finding the perfect black dress for grad in the perfect size and at the perfect price. But that’s another blog post.
I’ve been launching into big changes from the comfort of my mum’s house for most of my life. The morning of my wedding was spent in their living room, and now this. Graduation day. Who would have thought after three boys and 14 years of marriage?
I drove because, well, I’ve come to realize that driving on the 401 is not for everyone, especially not my mum, and I seem to be OK with it most days. It’s like riding a bike. I reminisced about how I used to drive the stretch of highway from Ajax to Toronto almost every day while getting my college degree, then on Mondays when attending one class at York. I recall going about 140 in the fast lane, in my powder blue Omega Oldsmobile that my parents gave me – I called her Alice.
That was the beginning of my university journey, and here we were at the end.
My mum and I drove through the rain, her keeping me calm, letting me chat about anything and everything. We had to pull over once for my nervous stomache, but the important fact is that we DIDN’T get lost, and we were back on our way in no time.
We arrived in Waterloo just a little while after the sun rose to gray skies and SNOW.
We pulled into the campus and drove around a good chunk of it before finding the reserved parking.
After some psyching myself up to actually get out of the car and walk the short journey to the building where convocation was held, we followed the crowd to the right place. My mom held her purse over her head and tried to breathe in the freezing temperatures. The woman really is a trooper and I’ve always appreciated her doing her best to walk with her ambitious, driven daughter through life.
It also helped to know that Josh was close behind, bringing our sons and my father. Josh will always be there, as soon as he can, in any weather, I know he is with me, even if not in person. And my beautiful sister and niece were travelling the roads to be with me too – thank God her hubby was able to drive her – and that meant I would get to see my nephew after the ceremony as well. The only one who couldn’ t make it was my brother who was very sick at home. But he would be at the party later, and we were all looking forward to that!
Once I saw the thousand or so other graduates in their gowns, everything changed for me. I knew it would. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone and that makes all the difference, doesn’t it? After finishing half my degree online the last two years, never stepping foot into a Waterloo classroom, visiting the campus twice only to purchase textbooks, never meeting any of my professors or classmates – I finally saw with my eyes that they were here, and they were many!
I can’t express to you how encouraging that was, how that experience will change me forever, how God’s already been speaking this truth into my heart the past few weeks – You Are Not Alone.
Even when you can’t see the others on the same journey, all running the same race, walking the same path, heading in the same direction – they are there.
See them with your heart.
So we line up and we filter into the gymnasium. There are at least a couple thousand in the space. Wow.
Three at a time they call us up on stage to get “hooded”. There are three distinguished university persons waiting on stage to chat with us while someone else places our hoods over our heads. My hood is green - my favourite colour. The man I talk to is pleasant, but he asks me the one question I don’t want to hear right now… “What’s next?”
I answer slow and tell him I’m a mother, and a wife, and I’m not quite sure. He gives me wisdom I’d hope for from someone of his position. He says to me, “Well then, what’s next for you is LIVING your degree.” And I think to myself that he gets it, and I am thankful for the encouraging words, right there in the middle of the ceremony.
We head off the stage, hooded and encouraged, and now challenged as well. Time to live out my degree. How? I trust God will direct. I can do nothing else but trust He will direct.
We stand at photo-taking spots along our journey onto and off of the stage.
I see Josh, finally, I see him with my eyes and hear his voice. He steps into my graduation and I am so glad I can see him there now. He snaps a few shots, including my favourite one at the beginning of this post. He is my best friend. My greatest encourager in this university journey. Making dinner, cleaning, caring for boys when I had nothing left and needed to study for four more hours at least. Listening to me when I talked through all I was learning. Catching my excitement as I discovered more of my interests and passions. And maybe understanding that a degree wouldn’t mean clarity for me, it was just another step in our journey, and maybe wondering what I would be like after this graduation day… when there were no job prospects or new projects waiting… just more of every day life and being challenged to live out my degree in that every day life.
And after all the formalities are over I see the rest of them and I get to hug them and we take lots of pictures.
My sister has been there in all the big and small events of life – from being my maid of honour to shopping for bathing suits to every one of my baby’s births to cooking grilled cheese and Kraft Dinner together for our kids. I just love this woman who is not even two years younger than me. So glad I get to do life with her. We know each other inside and out, the very best and worst of each other, and we still love each other like crazy.
My amazingly intelligent, sensitive, beautiful neice Kara was there to share the day with me as well. I’m looking forward to sharing so much more with this young woman as we both grow up together.
And my boys who I love with my whole heart. Elijah did his best to sit still during a “boring” two-hour ceremony, but now he was ready to get out all his 8-year-old energy, so stilly pictures were in order!
Then a more serious one for Mom. They both looked so handsome that day!
And my Joshua – sporting a rugged beard just now - it’s a good look for him. The roses are a gift from him and my sons.
Team Sklar together…
And my parents who constantly support me and my ideas… wherever they take me!
My brother who joined us at the celebration party later…
A good picture to end on… like the one we started with… having fun with the day, enjoying the moments… living in them as best I can.