I have two diplomas. The first, my high school diploma, is hiding out somewhere. I assume it’s in the box where the rest of my mementos are (crammed in between the playbill from The Producers on Broadway and my “Teacher’s Pet” senior personality sash, maybe), but I’m not 100 percent sure. That diploma didn’t mean much to me. I had always KNOWN that I was going to get a high school diploma. It wasn’t a question in my family. Life without a high school diploma was unimaginable. Of course, my high school graduation ceremony was rather dull. Although I sat in the front row, eight chairs from the left due to my ranking as 8th highest average in the class, I hadn’t ranked high enough academically to merit giving a speech, nor had I ranked low enough that my graduating was any sort of surprise. Instead, I sat sullenly in the front row, trying unsuccessfully to keep my awkward graduation cap on my head.
In many ways, my Bachelor’s degree diploma is similar to my high school diploma. They both have my full name written out, they both have signatures by important people, and they both signify the fact that I successfully jumped enough academic hurdles to warrant their existence. However, I know exactly where my undergraduate diploma is. In fact, I can see it from where I type now. As a graduation gift, my parents bought a frame for this diploma, and so it has become not only a tangible reminder that I did make it through four years of college but also a rather attractive piece of art. I’ve always admired offices where diplomas decorate the walls, and maybe that explains my desire to gain another diploma even though academia has lost much of its luster for me over the past year.
In any case, my college graduation was very different from my high school graduation, primarily in the fact that I sobbed almost uncontrollably during the two hour commencement ceremony last May whereas my high school graduation was met with cool dismissal. Maybe part of my emotional response was that at 21, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, whereas at 18 I felt certain and sure and still thought my potential was boundless. Age brings caution and humility and I was terrified. When I see my undergraduate diploma, then, I feel both proud and scared.
Is it tacky to hang your diplomas if your profession doesn’t require it? Maybe. But I know that I will always want the reminder of that time in my life.
What have you done with your diplomas?