‘Tis the season for graduations. I recently attended the commencement of our hard-working intern, Edith, and congratulated her on her achievement. The atmosphere in the auditorium reminded me of the NBA Draft as family and friends clapped, whistled, and screamed as each graduate stepped onto the stage to receive a diploma.
After the ceremony, the new class of alumnae exited to the courtyard to share hugs and take photos with loved ones and each other to remember this day.
The first hour of the graduation ceremony was incorporated with speeches from various students, many of whom spoke of moving onto a new chapter in life. As I listened, I reflected on the experiences of my graduation nearly twenty years ago and the paths I took following high school.
Back then, pagers were the hot commodity, New Jack Swing was what the “in” crowd was listening to, and “Terminator 2” was the hottest summer movie.
The attack on Iraq to liberate Kuwait, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, and the Rodney King beating were stories I saw on the evening news but had no relevance on my life, as the walls of high school shielded me from perils of the outside world.
Twenty years later, I feel I am much wiser and more mature (though some may disagree) and am now focused on the budget crises affect many cities and states, the closure of businesses, the fear that Social Security will be bankrupt before I retire, and the anxiety of another 9/11 attack.
Nowadays, I couldn’t tell you what songs Lady Gaga sings, what actors star in “Eclipse”, or why anyone would watch “Jersey Shore”. High school has become a distant memory, and I wouldn’t recognize any of my former classmates if they were standing right next to me.
The day before receiving her diploma, I shared with Edith my experiences of the months following graduation as I see them now. The one thing I mentioned was that she would not notice her newfound feeling of freedom until September, when high-school classes resume.
At that moment, I had never felt so free where I could do or go anywhere I wanted without any obligation. What I realize now is that was also the first day I felt the most lost. For 17 years of my life, I had aisle lights illuminating the path I was to follow, and I never wavered from it. As a new graduate, I now had to choose my own path in the dark.
Since high school, I have chosen many paths, some of them good, some bad. I have experienced highs and lows, with a little bit of luck mixed in, and the lessons I’ve learned have shaped my life.
But, if there’s one lesson I learned from high school, it’s how to problem-solve and applying to all aspects of life. There are no grades handed out in this new chapter; an “A” could mean a raise while an “F” could mean a pink slip. The questions in life don’t necessarily have answers; but, the ability to look for the answer is what will help to survive in the current world and help select a path with confidence.
Edith and her peers will be entering a world much less stable when I graduated. Some of the students spoke with excitement in looking forward to a new chapter in life.
But the way I see it, the years leading to your graduation were the preface in the book; the first chapter of your life begins today. If you finish a chapter, you will not be graded on what learned.
Your ability to solve problems and to look for answers will help you choose the path to new opportunities and move onto the next chapter.
One of the songs your class chose for the pre-ceremony was Green Day’s “Good Riddance”, which is very apropos. Make the best of life and don’t ask why; it’s not a question but a lesson learned in time. Life is unpredictable, but in the end is right. And I hope you had the time of your life.
Congratulations Class of 2010.