Graduation day


Tonight I went to one of my former students’ high school graduation. It was a nice ceremony, everything was done “right;” she graduated from a classical curriculum high school and the standards are higher than most high schools. The accompanying music was beautifully done, and each of the 29 graduates was duly recognized. Sixty students had started four years ago, only 29 of that original group were motivated, or persistent, enough to make it through all four rigorous years to become tonight’s graduating class.

As the ceremony ended, the graduates exited, and the parents and friends were invited outside to the courtyard to meet the graduates. I was sitting near the back so I was one of the first out. For a few moments, it was relatively quiet in the courtyard, only the graduates were there, talking to each other in hushed tones as if they could hardly believe they had graduated at last. The evening was deepening, the sky dark blue overhead. I went to Lorena, her face glowed with excitement and pride. “Congratulations,” I said softly as I hugged her, and in that moment I was so proud of her, as proud of her as if she were my own child.

“You’re part of the dream, you know,” she said, her voice dusky with emotion. My throat closed, my eyes flooded with unshed tears. “You are so kind,” I said. We hugged each other for a while, speechless. I handed her the card and gift I had for her, wiped tears of happiness away from my eyes, and we hugged again, holding each other for a long minute.

“Have a wonderful evening, dear,” I whispered. I turned away and left her to her friends and family, and one of the most joyous and important evenings of her life.

I walked away, more tears blurring my vision as I went toward my car. I wondered why I was so teary and overwrought, until I figured it out. The color of the sky, the temperature, the air on my skin, was almost exactly as it had been the night I graduated from high school so many years ago. It made me feel like I was right back there on that night and feeling the same mixed emotions as I had then, only this time with the weight of the intervening years crushing my heart.

I thought of Lorena’s happiness, and her exciting life all in front of her, and I regret to admit to a selfish feeling of self-pity and loss as I thought of how fast the years had gone by and how little in my life I have done that is of any significance. There is a keen sense of loss and depression over the adventurous, fun life I had wanted but didn’t get. Thirty years of searching for something that was either elusive, or impossible to find.

I had wanted so much, yet here I am, it’s my turn to be the middle-aged person whose life is essentially over, a sad wasted life that I didn’t want. The saddest thing is, though, I still feel young and invincible inside, and like I should still have the endless possibilities in front of me. That isn’t true, of course, and all I have left is to make the most of my life as it is. All this depression is probably the result of the highly emotional environment that the end of the school year always brings, the ending of something, the beginning of something else, “losing” the kids I have taught for the last nine months and sending them off into the world knowing full well that I may never see some of them again.

I wrenched myself back to a more positive state of mind, thought of Lorena and her extraordinary achievement, and told myself to go home and rest. It isn’t easy, though, when I am one of those people for whom everything has to be perfect before I am happy, and that is a most difficult road on which to travel. You’re part of the dream, Lorena had said, and I felt some peace when I remembered.

I hope the road for Lorena is fulfilling and pleasurable, and includes everything she wants from life. She is off to a great start, having achieved so much academically and also having the common sense and logic to make good decisions in the future. I wish her only happy times ahead, and I hope that all her dreams will come true.

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2 thoughts on “Graduation day

  1. Having multiple teachers in my life, including a grandmother, wife and daughter, nieces, in-laws, I have learned one thing. I know what you are thinking…all those teachers and you only learned ONE thing? Anyway, the legacy of a teacher is measured in the future of those she touches. That is what I would tell you.

    As a teacher, how many lives have been positively impacted by your caring and concern, by the time you spend preparing for and delivering your lessons, by the attention you gave when someone struggled? You will never know. The same can be said of you as a friend, as a coworker, as a riding partner. Maybe some people get to know how they touched people when it happens, but for the rest of us, all we can do is be our best, do our best, and hope the ripples from our life touch those who needed it.

    I am enjoying your blog and your openness. Even if I do not always agree, you are making me examine my own life and the world around me in a way I would not even think to do otherwise.

    Now go and enjoy a little break before the 2011-2012 school year starts.

    • Thanks, Randy, for the kind words. I will keep that in mind as I adjust my perspective.

      I will be honest, I am ready for a break, and was relieved to see the school fading in my rear view mirror today!

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