Convocation week. This is why we do it. This is why we all work so hard for this university, so all these students can have their day and celebrate their accomplishments.
I’m a sentimental fool: I cry at movies, weddings, graduations, even if I don’t know anyone involved. I’ve been to two convocations in the last year and a half: first my partner Ken received his Master of Arts in Learning Technologies from Royal Roads University, then a year later my son Aidan received his Bachelor of Arts from University of Victoria. That’s a lot of happy tears.
This past week was the first time I’ve been part of the convocation stage party: a distinguished varietal of brilliantly-regaled academics (and administrators like me) in all colours and designations. My gown is plain by comparison: black, with a black hood edged with white satin, representing my Master of Arts. I joked with our Provost that it’s almost worth getting my Ph.D. in order to wear a colourful gown, hood, and a funky doctoral hat on such occasions.
“Just like the marketing gal — to choose a field of study based on the regalia,” he joked back.
The convocation program – a product of our graphics team (along with the convocation committee) – arrived from the printer in time for the ceremonies and 99.9 per cent accurate – as good as you could ever hope for in a publication like that. This despite the tragic loss of our lead graphic designer at the end of December. As I flipped through its pages, I marveled at how the team has pulled together to support each other and get through a difficult time, and I felt a pang of loss again. And pride, if truth be told. More tears, this time bittersweet.
Life, and work, goes on.
I spoke with honourary degree recipient Patrick Lane at the convocation dinner Thursday night. “Do you remember me?” I asked with a wink, “I was a 16 or 17-year old poet who attended a writers’ retreat at Fort San, Saskatchewan, in about 1982, and you were one of the writers in residence.”
Of course he didn’t – he was in Saskatchewan at around that time because he had fallen in love with writer/poet Lorna Crozier (go buy her latest book, it’s fantastic). He told me the story of returning to the prairies to convince her to come away to Vancouver Island with him, which she did, to the delight of B.C writing community.
Katelin Albert, our Distinguished Alumni award winner, joined our conversation, and we got to talking about writing and following your passion. They both urged me to finish my book and submit it for publication somewhere. Why not keep following one’s passion, 33 years later?
So, on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I’m off to the coffee shop to start editing the first draft of the novel I wrote last summer. Taking Katelin’s advice, I’ll get it to what I feel is 70 per cent complete, because after all, “If it’s perfect, they won’t have any useful feedback to give you; you’ll be doing them a favour.”