Graduation Avoidance

At the risk of making myself sound like a heartless human being, I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I don’t like graduation ceremonies. Let me explain why, then we’ll get to the point of this writing. Keep reading, I promise I’m less jerky at the end.

*On a side note, if I went to your graduation ceremony, don’t get offended. This isn’t about your ceremony. It’s about someone else’s. I loved yours. *

We’ll start with my high school graduation twenty something years ago. I suffered under the blazing sun, in oppressive heat and humidity, wearing a heat trapping polyester tent-like monstrosity. It was brutal. Four years later, I decided to skip out on my college graduation. I opted instead to participate only in the smaller, air conditioned ceremony for my nursing class, thus depriving my family of the joy of sitting through a three-hour affair during which they would see me parade across the stage for thirty seconds. In my defense, I was seven months pregnant at the time, the parading would have been more like waddling and we were having record high temperatures. If I had participated in the full college outdoor ceremony, there is a good chance I would have died. Alright, maybe not literally died, but I would have been very uncomfortable, which to an overheated woman in her third trimester, is essentially the same thing.

Over the years, I have avoided more graduations than I have attended. I’m kind of a jerk like that. The few I have attended were brimming with dissertations crafted from The Big Book of Graduation Speech Clichés. You know what I mean.

“Today we embark on the first day of the rest of our lives…As we close this chapter and open the next…The future is ours… blah, blah, blah.” You get the point.

Any speech not following the stereotypical formula was even worse – filled with political grandstanding. I don’t care what your political leanings are, a graduation ceremony is no place for your soapbox. Such an event should be a celebration of the accomplishments of the students involved. Speeches should be uniquely tailored and inspiring to the fertile young minds hanging on to every word. The air should be filled with excitement and optimism, the graduates blissfully unaware of the myriad of devious plot twists life has in store.

Alright, now that I’ve explained my usual abhorrence for this rite of passage, I’ll get to the point. Last week, for the first time ever, I willingly and excitedly sat through a high school graduation.

My daughter, Hunter, on the first day of the rest of her life, closed one chapter, but opened another because the future is hers.

Just kidding. Her graduation ceremony was refreshing and inspiring, full of heartfelt and thoughtful speeches – none of which was consumed with political posturing or overused adages. The class president spoke of success not measured in money or prestige, but in hard work and kind deeds. The class advisor told of how each student is unique and special to him, how he assigns each one a theme song based on their personalities or physical traits. The guest speaker, a former politician, spoke of how a life well lived, healthy and happy with friends and family is the true marker of success. He encouraged the graduates to be outgoing, to seek out opportunities to meet new people and to have new experiences, but to always stay connected to their roots. All of it good stuff. Impressive stuff. I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment.

But, even if the speeches had been filled with lame rhetoric, I still would have celebrated the accomplishments of all the kids I’ve watched grow from baby-faced kindergartners to confident young adults. I still would have been proud of Billy when he sang The Star Spangled Banner. I still would have rejoiced at Jess’s beautiful smile and laughed at Erica’s goofiness. And, I still would have cried when my baby girl walked across the stage, marking her last moments in high school.

Mostly, though, it was special because it drove home how in awe I am of the strong, confident, intelligent, kind and beautiful woman Hunter has grown into. I am thankful to know someone as warm and entertaining as she is. Her whit and sense of humor are rivaled only by her outgoing personality and love of adventure. She’s always up for a new experience and is always begging for another puppy. Her zest for life knows no bounds and her generous heart has no room for unkindness. My greatest wish is for her to always remain as positive and excited about life as she is right now.

Congratulations, baby. I’m so proud of all that you are.

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