I can remember what graduating college meant to me, as a commuter student paying for classes as I could afford them and walking across a stage debt free. It was an effort culminating well after many of my peers, but an achievement nonetheless. I refused to let the amount of time I took after high school to experience a taste of the world belittle the accomplishment. I was the first person in my immediate family to complete a Bachelor’s Degree. And if I am honest, there were many days that I thought I would only aspire to a High School Diploma or GED, but I pushed through with a great deal of support.
Growing up in Houston, I had certain access to friends in families who championed college graduation, many of whom pledged their allegiance to either Texas A & M University or The University of Texas, two major Universities with a very healthy football rivalry. Markedly, a way that subconsciously reinforced these graduations and alumnus status was to wear very intricate gold class rings. They are conversation starters that sometimes led to an opportunity to make an impression.
Texas A&M’s alumni network seems the most expansive, or at least most discussed as I can tell. While I was not a student at TAMU, what I coveted upon graduation outside of a degree was that same connection to my University of Houston network.
There was a specific provider of these licensed rings, with a specific price point for production. Admittedly, because of the commitment to avoid debt, I knew that if I wanted one of the rings, I would need to figure something out.
There was an annual University event that would raffle off a certificate for a class ring between the Alumni Center and the Company producing the rings. I attended the event and waited for a ticket number to be called. When the results were in, I indeed did not have my number called that day. However, I was able to congratulate the winner and offered what I could manage in exchange. Surprisingly, the winner was amicable to an agreement and I ended up paying a small difference for customizations to the ring company.
Now, 7 years after UH graduation, I would like to think that people see more than just a connection via the ring. That I have built something using the skills and experiences I acquired along the way. However, if I take anything away from Aesop Rock’s “Rings”; a song which addresses skill sets rarely used anymore, I might need to head back to the drawing board. For Aesop, the skill set was a connection to his visual art. Looking back, I wonder if I still have that same level of hustle I possessed fresh out of college. That same level of fearlessness when taking on the world and working for mine.
I would like to say that we all grow from experiences in our lives into the people we become during the next stages of our journey. If anything, I think that I have grown into a more confident man without the need for as many words. I am still ambitious, but in more resilient ways.
In the years following graduation, I have been lucky to rely on professionals and networks outside of the one associated with the jewelry I still enjoy fashioning. However, with that said, I am also aware of a commitment that I am making of being a person committed to helping those ambitious and willing to work to achieve the dreams which they have set.
Happy Graduation to the Class of 2020. May you always find a place of respite in the passions you follow, whether you choose to adorn a symbol of your accomplishments or not.