Thursday, March 19, 2020

Graduation Milestones Canceled?

Graduating from high school or college is truly a once in a lifetime moment. Whether you ground your fingers pushing pencils and keyboard to make the dean's list or barely skated through, if you get there, it is an achievement of note.

The graduating classes of 2020 can call this the year when no one graduated. That milestone they've traveled toward seems to have been removed from the road. They've done the work; survived the romances, learned some tough lessons; they've sloughed off some classes, worked hard at others, been lazy and been courageous; they've tried to understand the complex world seen through the eyes of professors and text book authors, and even realized that those people didn't have the answers, either. Even for the students who have coasted through on some privilege they didn't earn, it was not a simple passage.

No matter what, you've been counting on this date. The dance, the senior trip, the all night bonfire, the special clothes, maybe a new car, a dinner alone with a special someone. You may have relatives coming, who must now cancel, because all of it is gone and there is no way to retrieve it in light of the onset of a rogue virus, a plague upon humanity, and the equally virulent panic in the public.

You're going to have to get creative. If you don't memorialize YOUR graduation as the event it is, you'll forever feel a tug of sadness when you speak of it. So get the dress, the suit, the car. Take the photos, plenty of them. Get the food, even if it is takeout, and use Face Time or Skype, and all the other social chat ways to connect and share the photos with your friends, compile graduation memories from your phones and cameras. Include your pets, your art projects, or back it up with a song you wrote. Make a memory recording better than the ones Facebook creates out of "your memories." Include your sports events, your dumb stunts, pics of relatives, too, and photos of your school from out front. If you can go on campus, get pics of your buildings, rooms, the cafeteria, the place your friends went for study. The library. The books. The chemistry lab. Nursing, Mechanical training, Biology. A math equation. Photograph a history paper, or a drawing, a teacher, a bicycle rack. While we are all quarantined, use your smarts to work the software to create a recorded experience of your years in school. Five photos are better than none. Thirty are better than five. Take selfies with your new hairstyle. Your creative nails. Your great new car or the rusty old pickup you plan to fix. Get those memories recorded and make it special. This is your passage, and one of these days, maybe not next year, but some year, you will be glad you have done it, I promise.

I have my memories, too, in my mind, but not in photo form, and how I WISH I HAD. Three years after I graduated, the school was remodeled and nothing familiar was left. There is no returning to anything; it is gone. That happened at my high school and college, too! In the years between graduation and the day you are ready to look back at those photos, you will change. You will see the world through such different eyes that you will remark in wonder at who you were and whom you have become.

You may not be able to have the events you expected to have, but you have lived your life, done the work, learned things you never thought you would know. You have the events you have already lived, not the ones that might have occurred on the dates set by the faculty or State for your school. This may be the year without a prom, but you can dance in your living room or backyard, and you, dear student, will still graduate, wear your cap and gown proudly, and you will have the most original, unique graduation experience because you get to create it yourself.

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