The 5th Degree: The Final Walk

by Just Juan
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“Better places, bigger things, a different dream ” – AnJuan Thomas

Way back in December 2013, I felt that I was at somewhat of a crossroads. While I was happy with the role I had with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I wanted something bigger and not being in a position to have it at that moment made me unhappy. I was going through a troublesome rehab of my ankle, which had been broken in November when some kid smashed into it at a Walmart Neighborhood Market. I had lost a relationship for reasons that are still unclear 2 ½ years later. I was just in a bad spot. I remember writing in Triumphs & Tribulations XIV that I needed “a distraction”. I initially decided to restart my old blog, Life: The Juan Thomas Story, but I couldn’t recover it as I had exceeded the 3-month grace period Google afforded those who decided to change their mind. With that off the table, I took the 2nd option: the classroom. The rest is kinda history…a Master of Science in Facility Management and the birth of The Book of Juan.

Last week was a great moment for me. For the 1st—and likely only—time, I made an appearance on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Though I received my diploma in the mail 3 months ago, it was important for me to walk across that stage and shake the hand of the administrators. Also, it is the final degree and I wanted to close out an era with a bang. So on to Rochester it was for me.

There were 6 graduates in my program but only 2 of us made the trip for graduation…me and one of my classmates from Pittsburgh. It’s crazy that we’ve taken 4 classes together, responded on each other’s discussion posts on numerous occasions but this was the 1st time we’d actually talked much less met in person. I met with some of the important people from the College of Applied Science & Technology that helped guide me through the program. My advisor was a very pleasant woman. When I walked up to the sign-in desk for the party we had the day before graduation, she immediately recognized me. I had hoped to meet with Dr. Rogers, the head of the Facility Management MS program, but I was informed that he had resigned a couple of weeks earlier to take a position in Hawaii. I guess I can’t blame him for dashing away for the better weather.

On Friday night, I attended the academic convocation. Frances Cordova from the National Science Foundation gave an inspiring speech about using what you know to change the moment. That certainly will be the case for me. Saturday morning was the commencement ceremony for the College of Applied Science & Technology. We assembled into the Gordon Field House. It was fairly uneventful. I mean, it’s not the 1st time I’ve been through this so maybe I see it a bit differently. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t significant. When I had my name called, I shook the hand of the CAST dean, the chair of the Department of Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management & Safety, and a few other important people from CAST and RIT that were on the stage. It was a great moment. I feel so proud of myself.

And that’s it. That’s the tale of graduation. This was a somewhat tough journey but I’m appreciative of it. When I first imagined this in my head 2 ½ years ago, I was in a different place…I was hurting physically and emotionally. I only wanted an escape and here I am now. Getting this degree is only the beginning of the light that is now emerging at the end of the tunnel I’ve been walking through. Now that I’m clear of graduation, I can really focus on redeeming myself from that terrible moment I had in Washington a couple of years ago.

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