Living · Teaching

Once More to Graduation

This weekend ended my sixteenth year at my current position. That’s a lot of graduations, really, but I never get tired of it.

I never get tired of seeing people reach their goals, sometimes after many years, and so all the more richly appreciated. I never get tired of families shouting the names of their young folks (and some not as young) as they cross the stage. I never get tired of hearing the stories of graduates as they thank their families and loved ones for helping them get there.
Ok, I’m a sap. But it’s the best day of the academic year.
In a very real sense, it’s the reason we do our jobs. It’s the reason the university exists—to give students a solid foundation in learning that they can apply the rest of their lives. To open the doors to the universe and see where they will go.
This weekend’s graduation was spectacular again—so many wonderful students crossed that platform; so many hands to shake, so many wishes to share.
And then there was one more.
All weekend long, there was commencement after commencement, from Friday evening through Sunday evening. The one I attended was Sunday afternoon. But I was back this morning, because in the most ruthlessly, beautifully efficient use of resources, the high school my kids attend–which happens to be annexed to my university campus–used the still-erected stage and already-wired sound system for their own graduation. And my oldest child marched down that aisle.
His hat didn’t fit and kept sliding to one side. His medal was twisted around to reveal a 20-sided die from Dungeons and Dragons taped to the back, as if that were his award. He looked uncomfortable, but also excited, anticipating. He was perfect.
I just sort of assumed my graduation stance and cried. I kept seeing him as a baby, as a kindergartner, as a miserable middle-schooler, and none of that fit with the vision of the tall, handsome young man he was walking down from the stage, diploma in one hand, doofy, ill-fitting hat in the other. He didn’t care about the hat. He was over it–moving on. He was happy.
That’s why graduations are great. No matter what happened on the way, they are crystalline moments where we get to pause and just be happy. Yes, tomorrow will bring more work, and we’ll have to set new goals and carry on. But to pause and recognize good work, to be content for a moment and celebrate success with those who have the most vested interest in your happiness, to breathe in a sweet breath of completion and accomplishment and not worry about what comes next for a little while: that’s worth a lot.
And to share in that feeling with hundreds of people at the same time—that’s some powerful magic.
Congratulations to the Class of 2018. We’re ready for you.