Late Spring is the season for college and university graduations. This year is no exception. This month and next month there will be lots of ceremonies with professors and graduating students in academic gowns and regalia. Adoring family members will applaud, take pictures with their smart phones. Graduates and friends will smile gleefully for selfie photos. There will be lots of Senior Day and commencement speeches given by politicians and celebrities. There will be lofty rhetoric about how graduates can go out into the world and achieve their dreams. Indeed, it will be a festive occasion!.
Graduations from school, whether it be grade school, high school or college/university are important marking events in the lives of people. But then again there are all kinds of experiences in life where one could say there is a graduation.
Think about when as a child you advanced from training wheels on a bicycle to mastering the same bike without additional support. You may remember the feeling of freedom and exhilaration being able to keep your momentum riding and not falling.
Same thing could be said when you passed your driver’s test and got your driver’s license. Again, you have mastered skills that are allowing you to gain more mobility and the ability to provide your own transportation.
Graduation from formal higher education, of course, hopefully marks the beginning of a long, productive professional career. Years ago, the idea was that you would train for a given profession “i.e. law, medicine, the ministry” and you would complete school and then begin a long working period in that same profession.
Now things have changed and people can find themselves changing occupations maybe even up to five times during the course of their active working life. This generates a lot of change and a lot of upheaval not only for the worker but also for the family.
There is equally a major metamorphosis when retirement appears on the horizon. What are your choices for this period of life? Do you stop working entirely or do you work part-time at a series of contracting or consulting positions? Will you incorporate this with some long overdue travel or will you branch out and learn a new skill or hobby like Tango dancing?
We need to remind ourselves that we are always, learning and becoming and growing in life. When you watch young people stride confidently across a stage, collect their diploma, shake hands with the university president or chancellor and smile for the camera, it’s all too easy to feel like things are dormant for you.
So, the question arises “What are you graduating from and what are you moving towards? “Ritual events like graduations, Bar Mitzvahs, First Communion, and Confirmation signal that preparation phases are completed and now the business of further learning, loving and maturation is about to begin.
This year, this Spring, there will be all kinds of parties and recognition for those who have graduated. Lots of celebratory dinners, gifts, balloons and much merriment. For those of us who have already graduated from school, maybe it would be worthy for us to reflect upon what stage in life we are transitioning from now and what challenges lie ahead.
What do I need to do, what people do I need by my side as I continue to stride confidently across the stage of life this day and all the days of the future?
May it be so.