Last week I attended my cousin’s high school graduation. He’s like my little brother so I was super proud of him. I’m glad that I was there for that important life moment…even though he invited me half an hour before it started!
As I sat in the audience with family and friends of these young graduates, I noticed a few things.
These types of events can be somewhat boring and the real entertaining bits come from the people around you…sorry but, kinda true. Like, did we need to hear 3 songs by the choir? Probably not, but I couldn’t help but try to recall my feelings from when I was up there waiting to graduate or perform at a choir concert or a school play. It was awesome. It felt like that moment was the most important moment of my life up to that point it time.
I’m sure we all had that feeling numerous times. But when you’re just 18, those moments are huge because all we know is school, our family and friends and we’re trying to get validation from those around us. So any additional “spectacle” is...a spectacle.
These kids who finished kindergarten through senior year ARE just kids. They are glorified first graders who know more facts. For the most part they have little outside of school and family experience.
They’re so cute. And young, and impressionable, and excited. They have their entire future ahead of them because they DO! A high school diploma is like the one inch that separates you from being able to ride the rollercoaster or having to watch your tall friends freaking freak out on the ride…of life…
Welcome graduates, this is the real world. (For some, they might have a few more years of “play” during college, depending on how life moves along for them).
10 years ago last week I graduated. I was sitting in those chairs with my peers, wearing my own white cap and gown. I was waiting for the speeches to finish up and the rain to stop so we could have a great night of fun. I was excited for my future and “total knew my entire life plan”…. But one of the takeaways from last week’s ceremony theme was: to continue to learn. And yes, I did. I went off to Suffolk University, spent a year in London at Regent's College and even off to graduate school at Fairfield University. I’ve learned through highs and lows, the type of person that I am. I’ve been tested in ways far more excruciating than the SAT. I’ve passed these test not by A, B, Cs but by succeeding, learning to be resourceful, and to try again when my outcome didn’t go as predicted.
When I was 18, upon graduation I thought I’d sell my screenplay, move to California and become a movie star within the next year or so…which didn’t happen…yet. I didn’t know how I’d get there but I knew it would happen.
Ten years later, I still have those goals, they’ve adjusted at times. I’ve lost track of those goals in the shuffle of the day to day, college exams, interviews, mundane soul-sucking jobs…
I learned to adapt. I learned to be flexible, to still believe in myself and my dreams to do my best and put enough effort and heart into my work so that I would get a gold star or an A+ in MY Grading Book.
I learned so much more than the historical facts and mathematic equations from my high school education. I learned the values that have continued to shape me to the be the person I am. A strong, brave, fun-loving Cheshire Ram. I’m determined, I’m persistent, I’m clever at times. I learned problem solving skills even though I can’t recite the periodic table anymore. I learned compassion even though I can’t remember Gandhi's birthday. I learned to be tolerant, open minded and non-judgmental even though I haven’t played any of those made-up gym class games in years. I learned to be brave, to think on my feet and to listen, even though I haven’t recited Shakespeare on stage in ten years.
As I sat and listened for my cousin’s name to be called, I choked up. Just like these kids are eager to begin their lives, so am I. I’m 28, I still need the encouragement from a principal telling them/me to power through, believe in your dreams and like a Cheshire Ram, create your own path with our powerful horns.
We can keep learning. We don’t just get our high school diploma and say well, “I’ve learned everything!” and we don’t go to college or to the workforce or to the armed service with that attitude. We are constantly learning. We’re constantly growing and we have limitless potential to learn and achieve new and super cool things every day. We’re not in school anymore. We don’t have teachers telling us what our reading assignments are or the essays we need to write or outline the steps in a biology experiment. We are the curious students. We choose the subjects we want to learn about, but Life is the teacher in the way that they provide the POP Quizzes, methods of learning and lessons we experience. Somedays I wish I could go back to school, like elementary school with snacks and recess and art class and reading circles. But I really like subjects I’m learning about now. Some of them are really tricky, like once you think you’ve nailed the test—Pop quiz on a chapter in life that you didn’t read.
So, in conclusion, we’re all kids throughout our entire lives, trying to learn. First our ABCs, then to read and write, then to recall important historical facts, another language, the laws of physics, complex equations. Once the school bell rings for the last time, we still have a lot to learn: The Life lessons that haven’t been taught on chalk boards, white boards or smart boards… it’s the type of stuff you can only learn on a post-graduation, seventy- year long, daily field trip.
Congratulations to the class of 2018…and to my class of 2008, happy 10 years. I hope you’re still enjoying the school of life!