Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Gold Cords

While I have always loved learning, I have never placed a strong focus on my grades. After a couple of experiences in high school, I realized that the grades never really reflected my learning. The only time I cared about my grades was when I had to bring them up to a certain level in order to get my driver’s license.

This philosophy pretty much held true in college as well. I was busy working full-time and school was just something to get through in order to get the degree. It felt like hoop jumping many times, taking 2 years of general education courses that were just a little bit more than repeating high school.

However, my life took a detour when I quit a good job/career, moved across country to be closer to family, and then ended up divorced with two small children. I decided to go back to school to get my teaching credential and master’s degree. At this time, I made a decision: I was going to get straight A’s and graduate with honors.

I’m not sure exactly what prompted this decision, I think it was mainly to show that I could. That I had always been capable of doing so, I had just chosen not to.

I remember once telling my mom that school was a lot more stressful when you cared about your grades. I even joined the honor’s society as soon as I qualified and ordered my gold cords that would represent my academic achievement at graduation.

Three years after beginning my classes, changing programs, getting married, moving from California to Washington and beginning a new career path and master’s focus – it was finally time for graduation.

My family and I flew down to California so that I could walk in the ceremony – a day all graduates live for and are excited to share. However, upon driving from the airport to the hotel I had a sickening realization: I had left my gold cords at home. Safely packed away in my cedar trunk. I was devastated.

I knew that no one else would really recognize their lacking, or even know what they meant. After all, it was just a piece of rope. But, to me, it was a symbol of my decisions, my dedication and my focus. It showed that I really COULD accomplish anything that I desired.

My husband had a solution – we would attempt to replicate the cords so that I could wear them at graduation. We borrowed a set from a good friend of mine and colleague and set out to find a fabric store. After hunting through the areas, we finally came up with an idea: we would dye a piece of white upholstery cording and add some dyed tassels to the end. The color wouldn’t be exact, but it would be close.

It was almost comical to see my husband dying the pieces in the bathroom sink at the hotel and putting them together for me. But my appreciation was far greater.

I then wore them in my graduation ceremony as I walked across the stage.

Now the homemade gold cords with the tassels having fallen off and the ends unraveled hang on my memory board on the wall in front of my desk. My official cords have never been removed from their protective package.

One represents the academic accomplishment.

The other represents a love attained – and that is the one that I will hold tight and remember forever the love my husband has for me. That he was willing to support me with my goals, my dreams and my plans.

It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness and plans of life.

We need to focus more on our relationships with those around us and hold tight to the things that are really important.


  1. Nice post TL. I'm glad you found somebody that will dye rope for you and who cherishes you.

  2. Teri Le, what a beautiful story. You are amazing! Congratulations on so many levels.

  3. This is a fantastic story!

    Thanks so much for sharing.