To walk or not to walk?

It’s that time of year when Marylhurst University graduates, and college graduates everywhere, celebrate their accomplishment in a ceremonial tradition called commencement. Many struggle with the decision — to walk across the stage to receive their diploma, or forgo the pomp and circumstance. It’s a very personal choice.

One Marylhurst student, Darla Mottram, articulates beautifully her choice in a piece she wrote called Why I Won’t Be Walking.

I’m not going to go into what the past two years of living in Oregon and attending Marylhurst have meant to me; I’m still figuring that out. I need time and space to fully digest everything that has happened.

It’s been a time of high-intensity experience and work that always seem to echo it or speak to it in some way. I’ve cried harder, worked harder, laughed harder, broken harder, learned harder, loved harder than I have at any other time in my life. I have been dunked headfirst in heartache and yearning and renewal and gratitude, and there’s just no way for me to write about it right now.

What I will say is this: my time at Marylhurst has been about me. Not about what other people wanted for me, not about what I can do for them. This experience has been highly individual, totally unique to my needs, my perceptions, my desire, my love for what I do.

What I will be taking away from my time here is difficult to define. What I will be taking away from my time here is a version of myself I am grateful to inhabit, a version of myself that wouldn’t exist were it not for the trials of the past two years, the kindness of the people around me, the love I have received and given back.

It has absolutely nothing to do with walking across a stage and being handed a diploma.

It has everything to do with the books I have read and loved. The poems I have written that have brought me to love. The professors and peers I have worked with and who have made a safe place for me.

This experience means so much to me, so big big incredible wow damn much, that I feel a cheesy one-size-fits-all ceremony would cheapen it. It would be like pinning a bow on the ocean, or a badge on the aurora borealis.There are whole universes inside me that exist because of a conversation, or a book, or a glance in the dark. The only way to celebrate life is by living. I don’t want to sit in a stuffy room all day, listening to the drone of boredom, being pushed through a funnel into a system that seeks to eradicate selves not chained to it.

If I celebrate, it will be with friends over dinner, laughing and remembering, joking and hoping. Or I will celebrate on the rocks, my feet in the river, my face to the sun. Or I will write a sentence and that sentence will gleam with everything I’ve gained since coming here.

I’m not interested in walking across a stage and being handed something.

I’ve already been handed everything.

Darla Mottram will soon complete her B.A. in English Literature & Writing. She received the Jackie Mosier Emerging Writer Award in 2014.

What about you?
Did you choose to walk at your commencement? Why or why not?