Saturday, April 24, 2010


It was all that I thought it would be: long, and smiley.  
But sacrifices must be made because this is only happens once, right?

My parents and Sam flew down from home for the occasion.  Scottie couldn't miss any more school.  Luke, Janna & Co. came from Colorado too; Janna's sister also graduated.  I didn't get any pictures with my own camera of everyone, so you'll just have to imagine it.  My mom's brother Don and sister Penny and their respective spouses also attended Convocation on Friday.  Commencement on Thursday and Convocation of Friday were followed by visiting and feasting and merrymaking appropriate to the occasion. 

If I don't tell you, everyone else will.  The College of Family, Home, and Social Science has a tradition of recognizing valedictorians from each department in the college, and I was it for the Department of Anthropology.  That means I got a certificate and medallion, sat on the stand at convocation with the other 7 or 8 valedictorians, and couldn't fidget for two and a half hours because everyone would see. That's really hard for me.  If I sit in one position too long I go numb.  Some of the faculty on the stand brought papers to grade, knitted, or played with cell phones. Brilliant. 

The valedictorians had to meet in the Marriott Center before the ceremony to find out where we'd sit, walk, etc.  It was fun to meet the other kids.  They were all pretty cool, the kind of people you wish you'd have met  at the beginning of college and been friends with all along.  One of the other vals gave the speech, two did a musical number, and two others gave the prayers, so all I had to do was show up.  Not a bad deal.  The val's graduated after the doctoral and master students, and since Anthropology is at the beginning of the alphabet I got to be first for the undergrads.  That was kinda neat.  

I have great people in my life.  Thanks all of you who care about me and do nice things for me.  Graduation is kind of a big deal, and nobody achieves it on their own.  

My parents and Sam are now flying back home and I'm really left completely to myself for the first time to do....well, whatever I want.  Right now I'm not sure what that is, but I'll probably figure it out soon.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Swing Dancing

WARNING: this is a big one, and it gets nerdy

I graduate on Friday.  I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I've done, places I've gone, people I've met, subjects I've studied, and mentors I've looked up to for the past five school years.  One thing I’ll miss the most is the Swing Kids Club.  I've wanted to write a little tribute to this gem of a club for a while, and this is as good an opportunity as any.  

I took an Introduction to Folklore class this semester for my last GE requirement.  (Most people have an incomplete vision of what folklore it.  Basically, it’s traditional and informal knowledge of a group of people.)   I did my major semester project on the folklore of swing dancing.  As part of it, I interviewed dancers to analyze why kids joined the club, what made them keep coming, and ultimately, how they felt they belonged or not.  This project allowed me to think back on my own experience with the club and how I learned the lore and found a place in this group.  The exercise has been enlightening.

If you didn't already know or haven’t figured it out yet, I like to swing dance.  Like real, '40s, big band, jazzy, swing dance.  During the winter semester of my freshman year at BYU, I sort of invited myself along to a club dance one weekend with a friend from my ward.  I knew nothing, and it showed.  I’d never tried real partnered dance before and I was completely lost!  I felt stupid at my lack of knowledge.  I determined it would not beat me, so I started attending lessons the club holds on Tuesday evenings.  I finally learned the steps, and eventually I learned to dance.  (Those are very different things.)

Swing dancing became my default social life.  If I didn't make plans for Saturday night, I could always rely on a swing dance somewhere on campus full of friends to dance with.  During my sophomore year I tried out and made one of the club's dance teams (I'm on the left. Oh wow, that was a long time ago.  We were all still learning).  Through that experience I became more integrated with the club and its members.  People recognized me when I came, and missed me when I didn't.  It felt good.

When I interviewed fellow swing dancers for this folklore project, almost everyone identified a handful of key characteristics of club “regulars”, people who are clearly recognized as belonging to the swing scene:  
  • Frequent attendance
  • Intent to improve
  • Attending alone
  • Take initiative to become friends with other dancers
As you can gather from my description above, I naturally did all those things.  I felt validated as I talked with other dancers and saw that their process of integration mirrored my own.  I felt like not only do we all belong because we share the above characteristics, but also because we all went through the same transition into dancers.  We all knew what it was like to be confused, self conscious, and unsure of ourselves.  Because of that, we appreciate each other’s success all the more once someone “got it”.

Whatever the factor, I think my love of swing dancing can really be boiled down to two things: the club was a place I belonged, and it was also a thing
 all my own.  It was really the first time I exercised my independence and found something by myself I wanted to learn about and excel in.  I built up my skill on initiative and desire.  Nobody was grading me; no coach pushing me.  I didn’t care what other people thought about it.  The sheer possession of the hobby helped me create an identity for myself that was really all me.  The self esteem boost at this formative time of life left me satisfied and empowered. 
That’s the take home message here.  We’re defined by the groups we are a part of.  Some are chosen for us, but others we get to choose.  I think the ones that we get to choose reveal the most about us.

I think I just had a related epiphany.  But I’ll save it for another day.  

Dancing last year at the Utah Lindy Exchange

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Graduation Announcement

I really am graduating.  

Just in case you wanted to come (haha, I'm so funny), here's the announcement.  I designed it myself.  
Photo credit to Camile Kellogg.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Today was my last last day of school.  How does it feel, you ask?  Feels like I still have some finals to take, so not too different than any other school day.  The biggest work is over though, so I'm not too worried about the next week.

I wish I would have taken a picture this morning.
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