“It is unimaginably hard to do this—to live consciously, adultly, day in and day out.”(1)
This is the time of: end of semester tests, parties, invitations, measurements, proms, formals, special recognitions, special meals, gifts, cards, crowded schedules, and advice. Little feels “normal.” The meaning of the rituals that mark the passage from one phase of life to another remains important. Drilling down on that core meaning is not as easy as we think, but we don’t have to make it harder than it already is for you. Graduates, yours is an experience no one wants for you; and we don’t want for us. Forgive me if I minimize your reality trying to protect you from the pain or make myself feel better because you are missing the rituals around graduation.
Many people relive their memories, embellished as happens through years of living, as we celebrate your achievement. Forgive me when my nostalgia overshadows your reality.
Some people you know, maybe one particular person, has invested in you and repaid a debt from long ago. Others are following an example set by someone who invested in us at your age. I’m trusting you to give me, and the rest of us, a cue about the best way to honor your experience and achievement without the usual trappings of the graduation ritual. What would be meaningful to you? I’ve noticed you helping adults deal with our grief about your situation through your occasional Facebook post and Instagram smile. “Ah, it’s ok. I understand why it has to be this way. Sure, it’s disappointing, but I’m ok with it.” Graduates, you are setting an example for those older than you and younger than you.
Thank you for helping the world adjust to technology that connects. It has been part of your entire life. Your ability to form relationships, meaningful connections to others, using texting, snapping, and other portals is making this time more accessible for you. And, it is helping older adults discover a whole new world. Given all the required screen time that you have now, I don’t know if those apps are still an experience of subversive independence, but like generations before, you found a way to have your own space.
As you move through adult life, there will be many things you want to believe, or need to believe, to navigate this territory without a GPS enhanced map. The people that stood alongside you to this point are invested in the adult you will become, but the hard work is yours to do. To borrow from Yoda, “Remember what you have learned. Save you it can.” What has always been true, but feels more so now, is that you need a good, working moral compass for life. Missteps, mishaps, and mistakes will be made. Failure is one of the best teachers. During the journey through life you will need to recalibrate your moral compass. Sometimes more often than you think. Be sure the tools you use are made for your moral compass and not something else. Stay in touch with your experience of faith and religious beliefs. Proclaiming faith in Jesus is easy. Practicing Jesus’ way can lead to Truth about living, and give meaning to your life. But, Jesus’ way will set you against or apart from culture, friends, and family during life. So, what would Jesus do?
Finally, a pithy quote from a one of my favorite movies. If nothing else, remember these words, edited for inclusivity, from Hub McCann.
“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a person needs to believe in the most: that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; that love, true love, never dies… No matter if they’re true or not, a person should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.”(2)
The world is waiting to see what you do. Make us proud (no pressure).
1. David Foster Wallace, This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Little, Brown and Company (New York) 2009.
2. Tim McCanlies, “Secondhand Lions.” New Line Cinema 2003.