Sappy Graduation Post, Well, It’s Not That Sappy, but Whatever, It’s a Graduation Post but It’s Mostly About Sherman and Yes This Whole Sentence Is the Title of This Post.
You’re not cool if you don’t recognize the guy in this picture.
I graduated today, only not. Technically, I graduated early. Impressive, no? The answer actually is no because I only graduated a semester early, and honestly, it was an accident. I didn’t mean to be so damn efficient in my college career.
That’s a lie. I was not at all efficient in my college career, but in high school I did dual credit stuff at a community college so I could hang out with stoners who had animal hoarding problems. But that’s a story for another time.
Because I took those community college classes as a teen with misplaced anger issues, I didn’t have to go to college for as long as I thought I would. My plan was to go to Austin College (not in Austin) for a year or so, then transfer to a school that actually offered a program I was interested in. I swore I would not graduate from Austin College. I refused. I was going somewhere better.
I never transferred, and thank God for that.
Informed that upon transferring to another school, any school, really, my credits from the private college I attended would not transfer properly, I realized I’d have to spend an extra one to three years in school. By the end of my freshman year I’d learned I was not someone who thrived in a classroom setting, and the idea of being a “super senior” disgusted me. My upbringing had taught me it meant stupidity and failure. So that coupled with the fact that I was rejected by USC for the second time (turns out studying for the SAT is a little more important than I gave it credit for) made me decide to stay at Austin College, the very pit of normalcy I wanted to escape.
The thing is, though, that Austin College isn’t normal. It’s located in Sherman, Texas, so it couldn’t be normal if it tried. Career-wise, attending a school more oriented toward my field would have been a way, way better idea than spending three and a half years finding hair in my Aramark food (especially the grapes—do not eat the grapes), but it wouldn’t have taught me the things I now know about life and community and what happens when you give me too much alcohol and roller skates. Austin College changed my perspectives on many things, but the most important thing it changed was how I defined success. AC taught me that success didn’t mean making a six figure salary, because chances were, your parents were already making that and left you a trust fund so you could while away the hours knitting and experimenting with your sexuality. It taught me success means finding happiness in being yourself, and as long as you’re not a serial killer or republican, your happiness and individuality mean everything.
I’m not sure how my school taught me that, because looking back on my college career, it had nothing to do with that lesson whatsoever. I also had a very different college experience than, say, a member of ICA, officially the Indian Cultural Association, unofficially the Idiotic “Cultured” Assholes, as that experience would have taught me to sacrifice all individuality for the good of talent shows and Top 40 music, an experience two friends of mine suffered. I also had an entirely different experience than a science major, as I did not spend any time in the Moody Science basement, except to make one bizarre and embarrassing video. It was for a class if you can believe it.
Which brings me to my next point—believability, and ultimately, the thing that made going to Austin College worth my three and a half years, which is the what-the-fuck-is-happening-and-why-is-it-happening-and-is-that-guy-over-there-going-to-do-something-nope-he’s-busy-smoking-a-clove-cigarette feeling one gets roaming the streets of Sherman. Sherman is not the hood. It is not a metropolis, a serene and scenic country town or a cool place like Austin, the town where relatives and acquaintances think Austin College is located. Come on, people. It’s named for Stephen F. Austin. We’ve been over this, and yet you never learn.
You don’t get the what-the-fuck-is-happening-and-why-is-it-happening-and-is-that-guy-over-there-going-to-do-something-nope-he’s-busy-smoking-a-clove-cigarette feeling, or WTFIHAWIIHAITGOTGTDSNHSCC feeling, anywhere else. The combined feeling of safety and uneasiness is unique to Sherman, the only town you can be sure will have a naked male sex offender break through the glass of a Goodwill store, dress up like a woman and bleed all over everything, but cause you no harm.
The WTFIHAWIIHAITGOTGTDSNHSCC feeling is what makes believability come into play. Living in Sherman, I experienced more weird things and got more stories than I would have anywhere else. I met a gay man with hygiene problems and breast implants. I saw a little boy cry for a balloon in a way I can’t describe on paper. I saw a goth kid who talked like Scotty McCreery, a neo Nazi skinhead who only shopped at WalMart after midnight, a car drive through a dorm building, another car shut off half the town’s power with a single crash, and a desolate mall only one kiosk foreclosure away from becoming a homeless shelter. I saw a struggling bookstore become the center of teen nightlife. I corrected a misspelling via a post-it note when Austin College spelled Purdue University as “Perdue,” a chicken company, on a sign in their own campus center. I learned words like “FacBox” and “Moodle.” But most importantly, on September 11, 2011, I saw Sherman public access display a picture of the two towers in flames while playing “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls.
I tell people about the things I’ve seen in Sherman that I won’t ever be able to erase from my mind, and they don’t believe me. I must be lying or exaggerating the truth. While I’m a decent liar and certainly have a knack for exaggeration, Sherman truth needs no embellishment. I feel sorry for those who will never experience Sherman, because while Sherman is hardly a town anyone experiences by choice, it brings people together the way hazing brings together sorority sisters. It teaches the arts of self-amusement and how to make just about anything seem strange. Sherman tells stories and teaches you how to tell them. I am convinced that Sherman is unmatched by any other town in the nation, in both the good and the bad, but mostly the bad, which is actually the good. In the same way Birdemic is a cinematic masterpiece by sucking more than all other movies in existence, Sherman is a piece of art. A completely satisfying, enlightening and terrifying piece of really, really bad art, sort of like this.
Today I left Sherman behind, for good, in the form of Austin College’s Class of 2012’s graduation ceremony. I have no reason to return to the town as my friends and I must now scatter to the ends of the earth, pursuing dreams, getting turned down for jobs and catching up on episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Technically, I’ve already scattered and all that jazz since my last official class ended in December of last year, but now I have no one left to visit in Sherman with an available couch to sleep on.
Austin College isn’t the greatest school in the world, but any college that gives me the memories pictured below must be doing something right:
So hard to explain…
Trish the Snowmaphrodite