Saturday, November 30, 2013


On Wednesday, I boarded the Pentalina and began an aggressive day of travel. After a brisk ferry voyage, a long bus ride, and making the connecting train ride by about thirty seconds, I arrived in Aberdeen. With an agenda of seeing people and doing a few things, my primary goal was to complete a task I'd spent the better part of four years preparing for: graduating from the University of Aberdeen with an MSc in Strategic Studies... with distinction (Summa Cum Laude for my American readers out there). I originally set this goal on a slow day at work in Virginia all the way back in March of 2010, at the urging of my "Aunt" Jo. It took me a long time, and a lot of thankless hours of hard work and sweat in the Middle East to put all of the pieces together. I was pre-emptively reading the textbooks before I even left the Middle East, and continued reading while I was back home waiting to leave. When I finally arrived, I got down to work, and despite trips to places like Orkney, Shetland, Dumfriesshire, and Paris, most of my year was spent hard at work... Mostly. On Thursday, it was time to complete the goal I'd fixated on for more than three and a half years of my life. It was time to graduate.

Those of us who were able to make it - myself, Ness, GBU-16, Warden, Sister, Homeboy, Slapshot, Vlad, and Chatti - assembled near the location of the courses we had taken with The Director, in some of Aberdeen's most ancient and hallowed classrooms, in the shadow of the "crown" over King's College Chapel. It's a place with which I've become intimately acquainted, outside of which I've spent many an hour waiting on buses and marveling at where I was and what I was doing at that moment in my life. I made a point of savoring it as much as I humanly could - of recognizing that this time was a season of my life, one that I could enjoy and look back upon, but one that would not last forever. We assembled, with those whom I'd worked, laughed, and lived beside for months on end, and received briefings on how the ceremony would unfold. Eventually, it was time to file into Elphinstone Hall - ironically, the site of our last examination back in May - to savor a ceremony conducted mostly in Latin, which inducted us into a fraternity of Aberdeen graduates reaching back more than five centuries.

And finally, the ceremony itself was over, and it was time to revel in our hard work. We spent a good hour trying to ride the line between celebrating as a group, and celebrating with the well-wishers who had come to share in our celebration. For me, that was my old friend Captain John, Kilgore (the curator of the Gordon Highlanders Museum), Constable, Silex, and Gin Aficionado, all of whom I was extremely pleased to have in attendance. We all congregated to have our pictures taken with The Director - an amazing instructor and mentor with whom I'd begun corresponding in mid-2010, and whose intervention likely got me past a significant bureaucratic hurdle which I would have been otherwise unaware of. We had pictures taken together, pictures taken individually, and eventually dispersed. Captain John and Kilgore having made early exits, the rest of us returned my rented gown, hood, and cap, and went to the Machar to end the evening.

It's hard to believe that it's all over, and it's also a bit of a challenge not to let it become an existential crisis. Then again, existential angst isn't really my style. There's too much yet to do. And now, after three and a half years of preparation and work, and a well deserved evening of respite and revelry, it's time to get on with it.

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