Well, it finally happened. Last week (Monday 3rd July) I finally graduated from the Highland Theological College, University of the Highlands and Islands. Sad as it was knowing that it was all over, there was also a bit of thankfulness that one chapter has finally ended for a new one to start.
So much has changed since Monday 10th September 2012, some good and some bad things. One of the good things that I will be writing about soon is going to look with more information about my eating disorder and the steps that eventually led me to start my recovery journey. Here I am almost 5 years later, in my robes and hood, waiting to officially graduate.
(A few of us the night before -left to right- Scott Burton, Barry Hughes, Andrew Morrison, and me)
The day wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Inside, I was so close to dropping out and not going up in front of everyone as part of the graduate ceremony. I spent the whole day, well more weekend, trying to be good and not harm myself. Trying to be brave and strong, and trying not to cry. I spoke to one of my lecturers, Jamie Grant, about it and he was super supportive to me and told me to look after myself and not to over do it.
(Some more friends on the day top left- Sarah, me and Lee. top right – Kerrera and me. bottom left – Andrew Forsyth and me. bottom middle – Lynda Sutherland and me. bottom right – Kirsty Macdonald and me)
(right to left – Andrew Morrison, Skye Sutherland and me)
(John Hulley and me)
I went back to join the others, got my black robe (which made me feel like a Harry Potter character), I would get my hood in the service, but the noise and the number of people was already too much. It felt suffocating, so I made my plan and escaped downstairs and hid for peace and quiet. I caught up with a few other students and staff members on the way downstairs. It was so good to see all these people and to see a few of them so happy. These are people who genuinely deserve to be happy.
After a while, it was time to walk to the church for the group photo. A photo which (like all group photos) felt like an eternity to take. I was stuck in the front row of students due to being one of the shortest ones there, and I just wanted to hide. I was aware of a few jokes and that around me especially when Jamie thought it would be funny to include a puppet in the photo. It was during the group photo I saw my family come in and sit quietly while the photos were getting done. A part of me was so relieved to see they made it on time, as I thought they would be later as they left later than what they said they would.
(group photo time)
After the photos, my family and I went to the college and had a very small lunch where I also sneaked a few photos with a couple of students. However, 15 minutes later it was line up time and time to walk over for the start of the ceremony. I felt my heart race, I felt like crying, running away, and the urges to harm myself grew stronger and stronger. When walking past Jamie he gave me a pat on the back and almost whispered “You can do this.” Which helped encourage me to keep going with it. The whole walk to the church (normally about 2 minutes if that) felt like it took hours. We stood waiting outside felt just as long as the walk. Then I saw to faces and my heart raced with joy. Fiona Watters and Diane Nicholas walked passed me to get into the church and called on me to give me a wave. I felt so happy to see them, and if they were there Ross Watters and Mark Nicholas would be there. I was so happy to know they were there.
(Top left – Michael, Matthew, Skye (L) and Paige (r), top right – my mum and me, bottom left – dad, mum and me, middle – skye, paige, Jeff (photobombing) and me, Bottom right – Matthew and me)
The music started and the line of graduates with their black robes, which looked like something from Harry Potter, started to walk in. I felt my hands shake and my throat getting tight and my breathing quickening but I lifted my head and walked in. Upon walking in I saw Matthew, my boyfriend, and a couple of friends sitting nearby.
(The walk in)
I got to my seat, waited for the last person to come in and together we all sat down. Different people got up and gave speeches and a prayer. I kept trying to catch Jamie’s eye as a support especially as the names of the graduates started and people were getting their hood, capped and given their certificate. Slowly, I saw the people moving one at a time until I was next. The thing I love about my graduation because there were so few of us (about 30) a small speech is given about each person with 3 facts. As I got up I caught a few peoples’ eyes, Len a lecturer who gave a big smile, Bruce (my former minister) who smiled gently, Jamie who nodded and smiled. As I turned around, my eyes never caught my boyfriend, my friends, my family, but caught Ross and Mark who gave their biggest smiles, sat up and gave a small wave. I also saw Fiona and Diane next to them smiling. I couldn’t (and still can’t help it) help but smile at the sight of them. I felt the hood come over my head, brushing against my hair, and being placed on my shoulders. It was a lot heavier than it looked. I sniggered and smiled and probably looked like an idiot but I didn’t expect the hood to have any weight to it. I turned around after my 3 facts and bowed slightly so I could be gently capped and gave the Jeff (the man who did the capping) a small handshake, went over to Bruce to get my certificate who gave me a longer handshake and told me that he was very pleased for me and that I did a great job. I felt tears hit me again, so I didn’t look to Jamie, I just sat back down with a final glance to my church family. I caught Jamie’s eye later who mouthed well done and that I did it. I did a signal that it is now time for deep breaths and to stay calm.
(getting my hood)
(getting my certificate and Bruce giving me his well done)
After the ceremony and the sermon, the graduation was all over and I ran up to say hello to those from my church. Out of everyone there, I was more excited for them being there. I knew there were others who couldn’t make it but I knew that they were praying for me and that they were there spiritually. I gave everyone a massive hug and started having a laugh. I was told, Johnny and Kate Humphrey might be outside and at that, we went out for photos and here they were. Johnny and Kate were there with their two sons (Calum and Robbie) plus one (I assumed to be a girlfriend to one of them). I ran up and gave them a hug. I didn’t expect to see them there, and I was so happy they were there. I turned around to see Fiona holding a present. I said thank you and opened it, she got me an adult Bible colouring book with new colouring pencils. I had no words except thank you over and over. We got together and had a group photo with Matthew in it as well.
(Johnny (Back left) and Kate (Front left), Mark and Diane (back 2nd and middle), Ross and Fiona (back 2nd and left) with Matthew and me)
We stood laughing for a while, got more photos taken, went inside and got a few photos taken with staff and friends. I got a lot of well wishes and congratulations and a few hugs from people I would never expect. I went back outside, my church family was still there and my family had decided to go to Wimpy’s, so off we went, had food and a laugh. My family left, my church family left. Matthew and I went to see some more friends before turning in. It was a day full of different emotions, good and bad, but I got through it and as much as a part of me is happy not to do that again, another part of me is sad it is over.
(top left – Alistair Wilson and me, top right – Hector Morrison and me, bottom left – Innes Visagie and me, Bottom right – Jamie Grant and me.
(Back row l to r – Michael, Matthew, Me, David, Front row l to r – Skye and Paige. David joined us some point after the awards due to work.)