A Personal Reflection on DRBU Convocation 2018

The following is a personal account of the 2018 DRBU Convocation from an incoming master’s student.

Sudhana Center Buddha Hall. Photo by Stan Shoptaugh

On August 22, 2018, DRBU held Convocation for incoming bachelor’s and master's students in the Buddha Hall at Sudhana Center. Rows of faculty, staff, and returning students sat facing the brilliant mosaics that adorned the wall. A seated Guan Yin Bodhisattva statue gazed calmly over the crowd. Returning students and alumni stood near the front, singing the DRBU Alma Mater as my cohorts and I walked in the processional and into our seats at the very front.

After a warm welcome, the emcee, Professor Ernie Waugh, asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves and share why they were there. A sharp intake of air echoed through the room; my cohorts and I sat wide-eyed, wondering which side of the room he would pick to go first. Ernie turned his head, looked me squarely in the eyes, and said, "We'll start with you." I whispered to myself, "Okay, pressure." I was the first new student to face the crowd and speak without any prior notice.

I left my seat and strode toward the elevated platform, mounting the stage to reach the podium. Jin Chuan Shi, one of the University chaplains, quickly suggested, "Why don't we just pass the microphone around?" I leaned into the microphone and said, “Well, I already walked all the way up here, so I’ll stay and pass the microphone back into the audience when I’m done. Is that okay?” The crowd nodded. I grinned and said, "I was born for this." Everyone erupted in laughter, causing a wave of relief to cascade across the room.

I introduced myself and made an impromptu speech about why I was there: to self-reflect and find self-love and acceptance for who I am. I had been struggling with this my entire life. After I ended my short oration with another grin, I returned to my seat.

Public speaking was difficult for me up until high school. I had felt like hiding, my voice trembling in front of large crowds. When choosing classes for high school, I made a decision hoping that it would change my life. I chose to participate in speech and debate to hone my writing and to break out of my shyness. In my four years of endless competitions, I never won or advanced in any tournament. I used to think that I was not good enough to impress anyone.

Yet, after leaving the podium at Convocation, it solidified for me that I did win something—something that didn’t come in the form of a certificate or trophy. I won my voice—the confidence to stand in front of others and motivate, inspire, and encourage them. I had been speaking in front of crowds ranging from sixty to ninety people as a dance leader at my previous college. I was glad that I was fated to speak first, for internally, I knew that I could break the ice for the more reserved.

As the ceremony ended, I signed the convocation book, and DRBU President Dr. Rounds handed me a lotus flower lovingly created by the mother of two DRBU faculty members.

Paper lotus gift from Convocation, created by Mrs. Chen.

I looked at this intricately made object and immediately thought of the graduation cap that I had designed and worn just three months ago. It too had a lotus flower—my dad’s favorite flower.

My undergraduate graduation cap. Photo by Yong Qi Zheng

My life suddenly clicked, and I profoundly discovered that I was, and am, in the right place, with the right people, at the right time. Like a lotus flower, I have to grow through the muddy water—my self-deprecating thoughts and consciousness—and figure out how to let go of what bogged me down and how to bloom. I firmly knew I could do that here.

For the first time, I heard a professor say, "Take care of yourself", and had faculty, staff, and my cohort members support me one hundred percent—an infinite amount more that I often support and love myself.

For the first time, people genuinely listened to me, and me to them, all of us exuding admiration and respect for one another.

For the first time, I am able to think, “My younger self would be in awe and intensely proud of the person I worked very hard to become today.” This thought alone brings me to tears.

I won't take any of this for granted. Here I am.