Possessing a story like no other

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By Kirsten Laskey

Some stories are just plain better than others. Perhaps what gives certain tales the edge is a quality or characteristic that makes them different from the pack.

These narratives have never been previously uttered; they do not feature some rehashed, recycled story format. So your attention sits up a little higher as the yarn unfolds.

I heard such stories during the UNM-LA graduation Friday night.

While sitting in a metal folding chair at the back of the parish hall at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church and listening to the Española Valley High School choir sing “I Believe I Can Fly,” I took a short walk down memory lane of my own graduations. The strolls were short because I could barely remember anything about them.

My high school graduation is completely fuzzy. I can’t remember what any of the speakers said or who even stepped up to the podium. My only clear thought is that I threw my cap into the air and then immediately regretted it because I wanted that tassel as a souvenir.

My recollections of my college graduation are slightly better. I remember the immense swelling of pride I had for the thick white tassel on my mortar board, which was a symbol of graduating cum laude. I had not graduated with honors in high school and therefore really felt I needed to make up for this mishap in college.

I also clearly recall the administrators, heavily decorated with all their scholastic achievements, strolling up to the stage and uttering the first words we heard as graduates – “Give the college money.”

I remember how the student orchestra performed a piece that was far from “Pomp and Circumstance” as we entered the gymnasium. It felt more akin to a soundtrack in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

But to tell the truth, that’s where my graduation memories end. I have no idea what became of either the mortar board or tassel and the diplomas are just collecting dust on my bookshelf.

What is the reason for tossing these chronicles of graduation up into the attic of my mind? Almost everyone has a similar story.

Graduated from high school (blah, blah, blah); moved on to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree (yadda, yadda, yadda).

There is really nothing special here. It’s a story we have all heard before.

So my ears perked up as I listened to the stories of two UNM-LA graduates during the graduation ceremony Friday night.

Those students, adorned in silky crimson robes, had more than just a diploma to celebrate that night. They have stories that will never be discarded or ignored.

They possess tales of success and achievement that can truly be treasured because no one else has one quite like theirs.

One graduate confessed to having made bad choices and had walked down the wrong path.  He dropped out of school in eighth-grade and went through some tumultuous times.

But with a change in perspective and support from his family, this student ended a life with no future and began a new one with a brighter light on the horizon.

The roar from the crowd as he accepted his diploma proved this was no small success. Another student speaker revealed to be a second atypical graduate. He was the oldest graduate at the ceremony.

He had a long career, not just in the secular world but also in the spiritual one as an ordained minister.

A lay-off from his job sent him back to the classroom, which ultimately lead him down the aisle at the parish hall to accept a degree in higher education at the age of 48.

I hope these two graduates threw their mortar boards high into the air with absolutely no regrets.

They each possess a story I seldom hear. It wasn’t smooth sailing for either individual to wear a cap and gown and receive a diploma. Yet, they rose to the occasion and overcame the obstacles.

Now those were stories worth listening to.