I teach, so each year I have the honor of being part of graduation ceremonies. I don’t think when I started to teach that I realized how unique it is to have the perspective that I do. First, I have spent most graduation ceremonies on the stage, watching each graduate walk by, and looking out at the audience. I get to glimpse those families who stand in honor of their graduate. I’m far enough from most that I can’t see their face but I see their pride. It’s in their posture and their body language. Shoulders back, craning to see their graduate take each step across the stage. Each graduate carries a book of stories about themselves in that moment. Maybe they were the first in their family to go to college and this ceremony marks a different legacy for them. Maybe they have been groomed since birth that this would be part of their life plan so they are fulfilling something destined. Maybe they had a different life path and realized that wasn’t the plot they wanted for their story, so this new chapter started for them 4 years ago.
I also have the unique perspective to have walked through part of these past 4 years very closely with them. I am privy to many of their inside jokes they share in commencement speeches. I remember the afternoon they sat in my office, close to tears, dealing with some struggle, then the one where they shared something wonderful that had happened. I have watched them come onto campus for the first time enthusiastic and excited about the path they are on. And I have watched them bound down the stairs in relief of taking their last final for the year, or possibly forever.
It is an exciting time, but can also be a little melancholy. It marks a time of leaving and separation, and there is an emptiness on campus when that happens. I shunned the idea of becoming a teacher because I thought it was just about public speaking. It is really about relationships. And with the end to their formal education, it takes a deliberate effort to maintain that relationship since I won’t likely see them each day.
But graduation is part of the good around me. The day is filled with victory and hope. It is a time of thankfulness and realized dreams. Each graduate is my colleague. They will go on to forge their own path and do wonderful things and I will stand, shoulders back, craning to watch their steps.