Friday, May 4, 2007

Graduation Day

During the past few days, the University of Auckland has been overrun by several thousand young people in academic regalia, who are followed around by a retinue of proud relatives bearing flowers and camera equipment. It's graduation time for all the students who finished they're requirements last semester- they're kind of slow here at sorting out final paperwork- but with several thousand students involved logistics require each school to hold its own day. (Science graduation day is Monday, by the way, meaning no class, meaning I'm off to Wellington for the weekend, but that's neither here nor there.)

I keep staring at these students with mixed feelings- while there is a month of class left here, this graduation roughly corresponds to the ones going on back home. Across the Pacific, I am dimly aware, the spring flowers are blooming and my friends are fretting over final exams right now. I feel a little guilty for missing out, and have had variants of a dream whereby I am required to sit all the exams I missed out on upon return as a result of this.

But the real reason I have mixed feelings about all these graduating students is a more personal one- in a year from now, if all goes as planned, I shall be given a sheepskin of my own, and I have utterly no idea what will happen after that. Upon inquiry I tell people I want to go to graduate school in astrophysics, but as the astute may notice this covers everything in the universe so it's not very specific in one sense. Furthermore I have no idea where this graduate study will happen, or even where I'll be applying, and I am both excited and terrified by this uncertainty.

But then when I get down to details I notice that I've given up the concept of geographical stability long ago anyway. Do you know that in the past year alone I have held no less than five indavidaul addresses? (They are Clark Tower, physics house, House 6, home in Pittsburgh, and O'Rorke Residential Hall, respectively.) A lot of people have fewer than that during the course of a lifetime and here I am, half a world away from the city I was born in. Considering I held only one address until I went off to college, I find this impressive.

I have learned a lot of things in the past year, ranging on topics from love to whitewater kayaking to statistical mechanics, but the most important thing I have come to understand is that nothing stays constant save that everything changes. I know you've all heard that quite a bit, but hearing something is not the same as understanding it.

But the most valued thing I've learned from this understanding is that while things may change for better or worse, I'm pretty ok with that. I would have missed out on an awful lot had I never held four of those addresses.