the graduates


It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down…

Anyone else remember this?? No??? Okay. But this Buffalo Springfield jam is possibly my main association with my college graduation…As there seems to be with every other class, there was an (official or unofficial) symbol/sign/mascot attached – a song, a book, a quote, a class personality – meant to carry with us as a trigger, for the memories of a time shared that wouldn’t come again. And it’s now that season again: in a few short weeks, countless freaked out students around the globe will move on to the next stage and GRADUATE!

However old you are, when was the last time you thought about your own graduation – from middle school, high school, college, grad school, bartending school, boot camp…. or anything else? At a dinner last weekend, I asked a group of attendees ages 21 to 82 – including my Class of ’16 son and five of his classmates – to share their takes on graduations past, future, and looming. Here’s a sample of the response:

  • How will I even make friends?
  • One word: bittersweet
  • I’ll really miss my friends.
  • Ugh, I have to get a job.
  • I’m excited for medical school… I think.
  • I didn’t think about my graduation; it just happened, I guess.
  • It’s a privilege to even be able to graduate.
  • Four years of fun… when will that ever happen again?
  • I’m a senior in college, and about to be a freshman in life.
  • No more school! WOOHOO!
  • I’ll miss academia, and the discovery and energy I get from the q&a of learning. Where will I find that in such a high concentration again?
  • I miss the weird professors (and the great ones).
  • I don’t wanna talk about it.
  • I’m wondering if I’ve made myself proud.

My avid readers: when’s the last time you thought about your own graduation(s), and what’s your gut reaction when you do? Is the memory good or bad? What was the keynote song?  Can you remember a single word the speaker said? At these ceremonies meant to mark the grand shifts of life, we usually nod at the speeches, eat the catering, kiss (or avoid) our first loves, cry with our friends, and somehow wake up the next day feeling exactly the same.

The odd thing about change is you don’t notice it; it comes in tiny, daily increments that add up to an evolution you might miss out on, unless you look back and take stock.  So every few grad seasons, I make myself sit and reminisce on functions past, as well as on those transition points that served as the little “graduations” without my realizing. And as proud and surprised as I end up feeling about the present, I’d secretly love to go back and relive, for a minute or more, that hard-to-describe queasiness of youth; that exciting stress of creation and self-doubt and the unknown, as often gut-wrenching as it is fun. I wonder what, if anything, could make me feel that tingle again now.

Take a few minutes to look back to your own graduations – ones marked by ceremony, or not — and think about all that’s changed.

Would you have believed it then if you saw yourself now?!




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