Since my last post, school started. I'm lucky in that, for my last semester, I only have three classes. Granted, two of them have labs as well, but it's still less work than it could have been.
Despite that fact, the only thing I really wanted to get to before graduation was my Ring Day. For those of y'all who have no clue about Aggie traditions, here's a little info for you.
The Association of Former Students has this to say about the Ring itself:
"The Aggie Ring is the most visible symbol of the Aggie Network that connects Aggies around the world. Dating back over a hundred years, it is a tradition that is deep in symbolism. Every symbol represents values every Aggie should hold; our six Core Values: Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect and Selfless Service. Those who have earned the right to wear the Aggie Ring have cleared some of the toughest requirements in the country for a class ring, thus making it one of the most treasured items and Aggie possesses."
"Design of the class ring at A&M is as deep in symbolism as it is in tradition. The shield on the top of the ring symbolizes protection of the good reputation of the alma mater. The 13 stripes in the shield refer to the 13 original states and symbolize the intense patriotism of graduates and undergraduates of A&M. The five stars in the shield refer to phases of development of the student: mind or intellect, body, spiritual attainment, emotional poise, and integrity of character. The eagle is symbolic of agility and power, and ability to reach great heights.
One side of the ring symbolizes the seal of the State of Texas authorized by the constitution of 1845. The five-pointed star is encircled with a wreath of olive or laurel leaves symbolizing achievement and a desire for peace. The Live oak leaves symbolize the strength to fight. They are joined at the bottom by a circled ribbon to show the necessity of joining these two traits to accomplish ones's ambition to serve.
The other side with its ancient cannon, saber, and rifle, symbolizes that Texans fought for their land and are determined to defend their homeland. The saber stands for valor and confidence. The rifle and cannon are symbols of preparedness and defense. The crossed flags of the United States and Texas recognize the dual allegiance to nation and state."
For an Aggie, this Ring means the world. I've waited to earn mine since I was in the third grade. I've worked towards this my entire life. Despite the other paths my life took me before I was able to get here, I had always aspired to make it happen eventually, and I did.
The first part of the tradition of earning and receiving your Aggie Ring is that it is presented to you by someone of great significance, usually your parents. Although both my parents were supposed to put it on me at the same time, my mother was too busy taking pictures and let my father do it. Unfortunately, most of the pictures show my face all crumpled up because I was pretty much crying the whole time.
The second part is that you put it on with the graduation year facing you. This is to symbolize that you are not yet ready to present yourself to the world as a Former Student. Upon graduation, you turn the Ring around so the year faces out, symbolizing that you are now a Former Student and ready for the world ahead.
The unofficial part of receiving your Ring is the subsequent Ring Dunk tradition. It's one of less style and grace, yet just as much a part of Aggie tradition as the Ring itself. After Ring Day, people get together and have Dunk parties (since the bars in town have now been banned from allowing this to happen there), where the new Ring gets dropped into a pitcher of beer and the student chugs it as fast as they can, catching the Ring in their teeth at the end.
Yes, it's silly to some. To Aggies, it's a must. As time has gone on, some have decided to Dunk in something other than beer, sometimes non-alcoholic due to personal reasons or age, or because they hate beer. I chose to Dunk mine in Michelob Ultra because I really don't like beer and it's low in calories. Joe Dunked with me since he never did his when he got it, and he decided to do Jack and Mountain Dew. Well, whatever. I wasn't about to do mine in Crown and Diet Coke, which is my drink of choice.
Pour the beer a day or two before. You pour it back and forth between two pitchers to get most of the carbonation out. You let it sit out. By the time you're ready to Dunk, the carbonation is gone and it's room temperature, which keeps your throat from constricting.
Joe beat me in time by a long shot. It took me almost two minutes to do mine. I kept having to stop to breathe! I was too busy trying to get mine finished to look at him and see what he was doing, and I may have dribbled quite a bit, but I did it, I caught the Ring, and I felt accomplished. It was a rite of passage and I passed the test.
Although my parents decided to pass on staying for the Dunk, Joe and I had a small group of friends who came over and enjoyed the evening with us. We ate a little, drank a little, and laughed a lot. Everyone was responsible and nobody was on their phones. It was great. It meant a lot to me that they chose to spend their evening with us. Some came and went to other Dunk parties, but they all ended up back at my place to watch us.
Even now, it's hard for me to believe I finally got my Ring. Every time I feel the carvings on the side, every time I look down and see it, it's a shock. It's a wonderful, fulfilling feeling of shock.
However, while it may have taken me years and years to get here, the journey is not yet over. I have one semester left and then I go through the other ceremony that all of this was for. I applied for graduation last week, I have my gown and my sash, but I still need to get my cap. I'm scared to death to walk across that stage because that means that my career as an Aggie Student is officially over. This has been the best time of my life and I'm going to be very sad for it to end. I'm optimistic about the future, but nothing will ever compare to the years I've spent at this school, the pride I've felt for being an Aggie, and the hope that, if my grandfather were still around, he would be proud of me for following in his footsteps. To imagine his smiling down on me as I'm receiving my diploma...well...that's the real motivation and the consolation I have in knowing my years as a student at this magnificent university will come to an end.