Monday, May 19, 2008

The Graduation Weekend

Over the weekend I traveled to north Georgia to help congratulate and celebrate my nephew's high school graduation. And being absent from the world o' blogs for three days is akin to missing 6 months of work. But it was time well spent away from the virtual world and immersed into the real one.

Sitting on the lawn of my nephew's prep school Saturday morning as the sharp blue skies and warm sun was overhead was a fine thing. I became even more convinced he is far better prepared for life post-high school than I was. He's already earned numerous accolades and awards for his many achievements and he's been one of the smartest and most talented folks I know for many years anyway. Though he might be a bit perplexed at all the hoopla and excitement and by what a proper reaction to such might be, events again made me realize that while I made good use of the many freedoms that high school liberation provided, mostly I simply raced out into the world with a reckless abandon. But as I told him, I don't think there is such a thing as the Right Way to handle all the coming changes.

(I was kind of proud of myself too, as I never caved in to making an obscure movie reference with the joke of saying "My boy, I just have one word to say to you - plastics.")

It occurred to me as well while listening to the commencement speech that perhaps the adult world needs a regular schedule of commencement exercises as adulthood marches past. First, the value of ritual events heralding notches in time could add much needed sign-posts that we humans sort of require. Commencements give a shape and form to the ideas of "You started here, you went through this, and now you're headed here."

Second, adults could get that sense of being part of a community effort, much like being a part of a particular class of seniors, which makes achievements at many levels, and that your community will continue to progress further, with some changes to that community taking place as well.

Now I have no solid concept of how to create a criteria for organizing such Adult Commencements . Some might say that events such as annual meetings for Rotarians or Elk Lodge members, or the occasional retreats of your corporate business might be the contemporary version of Adult Commencements.

It's just that as we provide these events more and more for our young people, with commencement events being held for the transition from kindergarten to first grade, from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school, from high school to work or college, and the many levels of college, those events are more likely absent for the rest of our lives.

We do have the Marriage Commencement events, and the Birth of Children Commencements (and even the Divorce Commencements), but most of the other milestones we have are of a more nebulous social construction which is far harder to perceive. The social conventions seem to change from year to year. And high school/college reunion events seem more an opportunity for renewals of previous commitments to alcohol consumption, or realizations that we've mystically morphed into new shapes and forms.

I've even begun to ponder attending some high school or college commencements at random from now on as each Spring converts to Summer, simply to participate in well-ordered rituals marking change. Each Spring I could be regaled with messages that not only had I endured, but that the Future was utterly open and ripe with Hope, that I have Time to manifest my own personal Destiny. Those notions often get nudged aside as we age.

So here's a toast to the graduates - to full lives, to the known and the unknown, to the world you will all be creating. And if you wish to take some time to wander just now, enjoy that too. If I've learned anything as I make the daily steps from Youth to Old Age, it's that everything we experience is useful even if we think at the time it is not. Cheers!

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