Ships in Harbor- The Heartbreak and Joy of High School Graduation

 In Seriously?

So, the graduation ceremonies have begun in Jefferson and Lewis County and, no doubt, around New York State.

Every year around this time, I say a silent prayer of thanks that I am no longer the Senior Class Adviser whose job it was to keep order during the Graduation Ceremony. There I was, in my pencil skirt, pulling my pumps out of the soggy grass of the football field in an attempt to stop the shenanigans. The shenanigans changed each year. Some years, it was a beach ball playfully volleyed during the someone’s speech. Or perhaps bubbles, slowly floating up from the sea of graduation caps. And there I was, straddling graduates and futilely trying to retrieve the contraband items in full view of an audience of several hundred. I should also mention that another aspect of my job was to provide instruction on the proper way to toss your graduation cap. This became necessary after some kid hurled his cap like a Frisbee right into a classmate’s eye. It’s all fun and games until someone scratches a cornea.

And so, I am very glad now to just sit back and watch the ceremony unfold. I understand, of course, this adolescent need to give authority one last snub. And a few beach balls and bubbles are relatively harmless, even if they are an impolite response to a speech. After all, the reality lurks just around the corner and bubbles and beach balls will be useless against the dreaded “real world.” As Will Ferrell told the Harvard class of 2003, he went to the “school of hard knocks and the colors were black and blue.”

In fact, here is a list of the things that the real world holds for you, graduates:

  1. No one will remind you that the test is tomorrow.
  2. No one will hand you back your research paper and ask you to fix the mistakes and try again.
  3. No one will care if you aren’t in class.
  4. No one will care that you are on the bench and your family has come to watch you play.
  5. No one will check to see if you woke up in time for school.
  6. No one will wait up to be sure you got home alright.
  7. No one will call the school when an instructor is unfair.
  8. No one will care that you are failing.

I can hear you now, graduates! You are cheering inside. No more nagging, no more ceaseless questions about your day. No more parents hovering over you. Finally! You’re on your own!

And so, here’s the downside…

  1. No one will remind you that the test is tomorrow.
  2. No one will hand you back your research paper and ask you to fix the mistakes and try again.
  3. No one will care if you aren’t in class.
  4. No one will care that you are on the bench and your family has come to watch you play.
  5. No one will check to see if you woke up in time for school.
  6. No one will wait up to be sure you got home alright.
  7. No one will call the school when an instructor is unfair.
  8. No one will care that you are failing.

No one will care…unless you do.

You see, it is natural for parents to defend their child, to look out for them, to do whatever is humanly possible to avoid seeing them fail. And that is why it is so hard to watch them walk across that stage. Because now, they are beyond our reach.

But we must remember that old saying: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.”

And so, things will change. Our children will take control of their destinies and we will feel sharply the pain of that loss.

It’s hard because, even as a part of our lives are ending, theirs is just beginning. So, be happy for them, even as it tears you up to see that white robe and cap. Sure there will be trident caps that will sail out of nowhere and slice their corneas, but there will also be …well, days when that won’t happen.

To all the graduates I know…hats off to you, my friends.

Go find what you want in life.

(But remember to call your mother).

 

Graduation Speeches that will give you a laugh:

Steven Colbert’s 2011 Address at NU:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6tiaooiIo0

Will Ferrell’s 2003 Speech at Harvard:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPl3X6whm3A

 

Featured Image: http://www.livewellwinona.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/high-school-graduation.jpg

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