These cufflinks have an especially strong significance in my life. I think it reflects strongly on how important a piece of paper can be in someone's life. And oftentimes, this piece of paper is minimized, but it's strange the emotional magnitude it can represent. To many people, a naturalization certificate is one of the most important documents they will ever receive. Marriage certificates are highly cherished as another official recognition of a major event in one's life. For me, a document that will rank very high up there with my naturalization and marriage certificates will be my Pennsylvania State University degree.
Both my parents went to Penn State. My dad graduated summa cum laude in 3 years with a History degree. My mother transferred to Penn State from Elizabethtown College and graduated with an Elementary Education degree. Growing up, we were a very strong Penn State household. My dad loves Penn State so much he, to this day, cannot watch close Penn State football games. I think he realized he might have a passion problem when he punched a hole in a relative's wall during the PSU v. Georgia 1983 Sugar Bowl. A game Penn State won. My mother and I have eased into a nice tradition of texting each other during Penn State football games and she'll always respond with Dad being in the other room watching something less stressful, like near miss car crashes on Youtube.
My educational journey was supposed to follow a very different path than what unfolded. I won't get into the gory details, but let's summarize it with I didn't want to be at the school I ended up. The two primary activities I did in college was throwing parties and cheating. It turned out I was making quite a bit of money throwing keggers and I was also getting a reputation for the person to go to if you were too lazy to write your own term papers. Business was so good, in fact, I no longer had time to go to my own classes, as I was far too busy making sure other people could pass theirs, albeit completely unethically.
For some strange reason, universities frown on not attending class. In the David vs. Goliath battle that ensued, David did not pull off the upset. Goliath i.e. Kutztown University, handily won. I did get a parting shot in when I put up a realtor “For Sale” sign in the grass located in front of my dorm room, hung a tire swing on the branch of the tree outside the window, and picket fenced the approximate boundaries of said dorm room. I got cited for defacing University property. They really don't have a sense of humour about these things.
For the next 24 years, I had to jokingly deflect answers on my education. This became especially awkward when I was a graduate professor in Barcelona. I can honestly tell you I have never felt more uncomfortable, or a bigger phony than during commencement ceremonies. As a member of the faculties of the schools I taught at, I had to wear a doctoral robe with the goofy hat. Every chance I got, someone in my family died and I had to excuse myself from the ceremony for a family emergency. I'm glad I only stayed in Barcelona for 4 years, I was going to start running out of family members to kill off.
Initially, not having a degree actually worked in my favour. But as time went on, the people who took the normal path and acquired degrees also started to acquire work experience as well. I am now being rejected for career opportunities because European companies require degrees much more than US companies. So I decided to bite the bullet and go get a degree. The advent of online distance learning means I could easily just get a degree from any old college. I looked at the top ranked online programs and saw Ohio State was actually No.1. I double checked to make sure this wasn't an error, but sadly, apparently it's true. There is not a snowball's chance in hell I was going to become a Buckeye. Sitting in at No. 5 was Penn State, though!
I've always felt a little inadequate wearing my Penn State football hats. I am a rabid PSU Wrestling fan and I also follow PSU rugby and soccer. Now that I am actually an admitted student at Penn State, I can wear this apparel with a little more confidence. The paper won't really change my life in such dramatic of a manner. But, it will definitely alter the way I perceive myself in this world. I didn't realize how much this means to me until I was actually accepted. And I also didn't realize how much joy it would give my parents, as well. One of their three children will follow in their footsteps and be a Penn State alumni.
WE ARE.....PENN STATE!