The following reflection was written in 2003, when I was between 25 and 26 years old.

They called, “Earl Christopher Clark” and I ascended the podium and from the band there arose a few scattered shouts of “EARL.” Among the well-wishers were my ex-girlfriend and it was nice that, after all that had gone down, she was still happy for me… at least happy enough for me that she shouted the name that I hated to be called.

Tracy was there in the band. I distinctly recall hearing her voice. Maybe I’m wrong, but I refuse to admit it. She was there and she was one of the people who shouted for me.

When all of us were graduated there was the call to change our tassles to the other side and then we tossed our caps in the air. This, of course, turned out to be a big mistake. I was leaving the grounds of the football field with a cap that had no tassle. This was bad.

I discovered later that my aunt had bought a plaque that involved hanging a tassle from it. It already had the wrong date on it because they’d moved graduation and now she was panicked that her gift was ruined. There is actual video of a bunch of my relatives searching the field for a stray tassle.

They did eventually find one.

Aside from seeing a few of my friends in the gymnasium before the whole ordeal I don’t think I interacted with any of them at all that day. After the ceremony I went straight home and we had a party there with my family. Among the gifts I received were a handful of touching cards, an airbrush, and several other thoughtful presents.

I did take off for a half-hour or so after the family started heading home, trying to find a party at a friends’ place. I had no luck though. I think I knew where some were but I was too embarrassed to go because I wasn’t sure who I would know at any of them.

In the end I just came home and went to sleep and the next day I went to work and it all seemed like a major letdown.

Of course, that’s just the way I look at things in the moment. Looking back on it I know that graduating was a major accomplishment and I’m proud of what I achieved that day. Don’t let any negative overtones fool you. Graduation was a big deal and well, that’s that.