Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Growing Up: Convocation

I have convocated.

I now have a Bachelor of Arts in Social and Cultural Anthropology, with a Minor in History.

When I tell people my degree the top three questions I get thrown at me are... first, What is that? Anthropology is the study of culture (plain, simple, to the point). Once given that answer they furrow their brow, krinkle their nose and say, Why did you decide to take that? I reply with When I was around 10 years old I went to see Wade Davis, a famous anthropologist and botanist speak, I was enthralled with the world he discussed and decided that, that is what I wanted to be. Then, they say, Well, What are you going to do with it? I smile and reply, Well, I had planned to get my Masters and PhD, but as school went on I realized that horses are a much more important part of my life, so I think i'm going to see where that path takes me instead. Then, I usually receive a bit of a "oh dear" smile because yes... I have obtained a degree that I will probably never use... meaning, I will probably never travel to Africa, and study a tribe, which I will then publish a book on. Such is life.

I was a good student in High School, I received early acceptance into the University of Calgary. This was also the only school I applied too - we didn't have the money for me to go off and study somewhere else. I entered University at the ripe old age of 17, the first day of my second semester of University I turned 18. I got my degree done in 4 years, sometimes I wanted to be there, a lot of times I didn't, I received good grades, bad grades and a lot of in-between grades. Now, I have a degree at 21, as it stands I could be doing a lot worse. Despite the fact I won't become an anthropologist, I will use my degree in different ways.

University taught me many things, I will list what I think the most important are here:
  •  You may not love where you are in the moment, but you gotta keep going.
On the eve of my second year, heading into my third, I realized that I wasn't very happy with where I was school-wise. I knew I loved horses, I knew that I wanted horses to be a major part of my life. I decided to myself that I would become a vet. Becoming a vet would mean pulling up my pants and really getting to work, my grades were nowhere near the 3.7-4.0 gpa range one needs to get into vet school. It would also mean taking a semester "off" to upgrade some of my highschool classes. I spent a good month going over what I should do. I realized that I didn't actually want to be a vet, but that, in the moment, I thought that would be my only way to find myself in a career around horses. I entered my third year in the same program and I laboured on for two more years, for the most part I was unfortunately pretty checked out of my program. However, I was lucky enough to experience some amazing professors at the U of C, I got to take fun and wild and intriguing classes. Some of my favourites included classes on creativity, story, religion and my all time favourite - a high level History class on the Canadian West, where I got to write an in-depth paper on the differences and similarities between Canadian and Northern American cowboys vs. Southern American and Mexican cowboys. I may have not been 100% where I wanted to be, but I also knew that I was fortunate enough to be where I was, and that obtaining a degree at the end of it was well worth it.
  • Allow yourself to love and be interested in things that may not be the most lucrative
I am a storyteller, I love stories. I ended up with a minor in History simply because I loved History classes. I took as many religion classes as I could because I find religion fascinating. I bounced around through different anthropology topics because I loved how anthropology can find a niche in just about any "world" - political, the business sector, a small tribe in africa, etc. I often came up against people who snickered at the title "Bachelor of Arts", who mocked my degree for what it represented, and who felt the need to remind me that their degrees in Finance, Accounting and Engineering would "get them a job at the end of this". Well, isn't that nice. The statistic is that more than 50% of people will leave their first field and embark on totally different careers in their lifetime, so congrats, you may have a job at the end of this, but you won't stay there. I, very quickly, came to care less about those comments. Perhaps those people that scoffed at me desperately, secretly, wanted to be in a degree that was a little on the "lighter" side of things, perhaps they didn't - perhaps they truly loved where they were. To me, it doesn't matter, because I knew where I wanted to be, concern yourself with who you are, not who other people think you should be.
  • My Degree taught me patience, commitment, research methods, and communication skills
The above skills are priceless. Being in a degree you aren't entirely commited to takes a lot of commitment and patience to labour through. Being in a degree where your finals are often 30 page indepth research papers about obscure topics teaches you commitment, how to communicate properly and how to research the living hell out of something. Over my 4 years I wrote papers on theorists, religion, tribes, politics, and every other topic under the sun. Yes, as some may joke, I learned a lot about things that I can fascinate people with at dinner parties. Atleast I'm not boring. Moreover, I have the confidence to hold my own in conversations - not just at dinner parties, but with respected, wiser people than myself. I know now how to communicate clearly, precisely, and effortlessly in many different settings and situations. University is less about what your studying and more about how your studying - obtaining a degree shows people that you can be commited, that you can get through something, and that you can emerge successful on the other side.

A lot of people seem to think that obtaining a degree signifies growing up, and growing older. What does that mean to me? Well, lately I've been joking it means putting on weight easier and quicker, and really bad hangovers. (I stand by this statement) Other than that, I'm not quite sure what it means, obviously more responsibility, I am now more accountable for my actions than ever before - perhaps not personally, or at home, where i've always been accountable, but definitely in the eyes of the world. I'm also in a bit of a different place in my own life, for the first time in 6 years I will not be packing up my bags and living at my ranch for the summer. In a way, the closing of the ranch was a very definitive moment in my life, it was the closing of a chapter, and a push onto a new path in life. For as many dreams as I found, imagined and captured amongst the hills of the Red Deer River and the Grease Creek, a thousand others were waiting in the shadows - unable to be realized or caught while I was still engrossed in that place. It's a funny thing, aspirations, isn't it? Maybe that's what part of growing up is, realizing that some chapters do need to end for new chapters to begin. It isn't always easy, and it isn't always pretty. A part of me still thinks, knows, is, shrivelled up and in a dark corner due to being forced to leave a place I so often saw as my physical and spirtual home. Another part of me is growing up, and out, and is allowing myself to experience new things and "go out on a limb" so to speak. I recognize that many of the new and exciting ventures I have been finding myself in this year is due to that closing chapter.

Finally, the act of walking across the stage really doesn't excite me much. These traditions are much more for the family than the person. For me, symbolically going to university was more for my mom than myself. I grew up in a home where post-secondary was not an option, sometimes, in dark places where I was struggling with who I was and what I was doing, I would blame my mother for putting me there. However, I now know how young I was when I entered University. University gave me a four year structure where I could bounce around and change my whims and cares, but still grounded me in doing something. I am very thankful I was nudged into an undergraduate degree. I guess growing up also means facing into some demons you don't always wish to partake in. My family history isn't always as cheery and bright as some. My legal last name is my father's last name, ever since I was a baby I have been going by a double barrel last name of both of my parents. Once I turned 18 my mother wanted me to legally change my name, the only reason I didn't do it was because of how much time, effort and money changing a name requires. She wanted the name on my degree to be the double barrel last name, and it wont be, I know she is dissapointed and I regret not getting my shit together and doing it. However, a part of me can't help but be slightly annoyed over the fact that adult decisions on a tiny little infant have such ramificating consequences when that infant reaches adulthood. My father wont be at my graduation, this year I made the decision to no longer communicate with him for a variety of reasons. Just as in everything in life, a simple moment, a quick walk across a stage, always represents more than it lets on to.


  1. Try getting a degree in Thoroughbred Management and see what kind of "You are useless and hopeless" looks you get. I think your major sounds totally awesome!

    And, even if you're feeling in limbo right now and unsure about where your life is headed, know that at least your dress is fucking fabulous.

  2. As long as you are flexible and eager to learn you can do anything regardless of what degree you get. Congratulations!

  3. My cousin just graduated from University of Calgary (I think her convocation was last weekend) with a BA in English Lit. She always jokes that she's going to go work in an English Factory when people query her on her future jobs.

    Big Congrats to you!

  4. You done it so different thatn me, lol but got some of the same remarks. When I got out of high school I wanted to be either a pilot or a lawyer, well by the time I gratuated lawyer was out cause too much English and Social and somehow never went for a pilot (still could I guess) So since I was broke worked for a few years and then went and became a farmer! LOL I grew up in Calgary and knew I wanted out and so went to Olds College and got a Diploma in Agriculture, Farm and Ranch management major. You shoulda heard the comments I got! But I love the life I am living and I really loved the course was so much fun to learn again when learning what I wanted! So I say who cares what others say, do what you want, and if its not what your degree is do it anyways :)

  5. Congratulations!

    It took me over 7 years to finally get my BS in Information Technology. I was SO glad to be done with school when it was finally over. I completely understand where you're coming from. You have to have time to enjoy life too!

  6. I totally did not cry reading this post.....