This past Friday, I attended a high school graduation. Not mine. In fact, excepting my younger sister’s in 2004, I haven’t attended a high school graduation since my own.
And take my word for it: my high school graduation was just a few ticks before this past Friday.
No, this was a volunteer’s big day. I still can’t believe a gangly bean pole I met when he was 13-years-old graduated from high school. Sheesh. But that is neither hide nor hair. What is hide and hair (or still not either if we get literal) is how inspiring it can be to attend a high school graduation.
Yes, I am 34-years-old, and I have a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree, and I can still be inspired by the messages of change, adventure, and dreaming big that characterize a high school graduation.
These are kids – okay, young adults – who are getting ready to go on their first big adventure, who have bigger dreams, and who will experience some of the biggest changes in their lives, thus far.
And they are excited about it.
As they should be, of course, but their excitement does not have to be limited to them. Messages about pursuing your dream; about taking risk and embracing the possibility of failure; about finding what you love and holding on to it; about facing fear and choosing adventure; and about gratitude for the people and experiences in your life, both today and yesterday, can be taken to heart by all ages.
As I sat there and listened to three graduates give tear-filled speeches brimming over with messages of hope for tomorrow, nostalgia for yesterday, and sprinkled with inspirational quotes throughout, I thought about my own life. I am at a crossroads right now, no doubt about that. I have felt my dreams shift, and possibilities I once thought undesirable or non-existent are now proving to be the ones I want to seize with both hands. Dreams I have pursued the past several years are not what I thought they would be. And the impact I want to make on the world today is not the one I wanted to make yesterday.
When one of the three graduates started talking about mistakes, and making mistakes, I felt those words most poignantly of all. She was proclaiming her desire to make lots of mistakes so she can learn, experience, and grow. I don’t know how much of that wish is real, but the words are: the road forward is paved with our mistakes. And for that, we must always be grateful for them. Mistakes have guided us to where we are, and if we don’t want to be there, they help us take the next steps to get to where we do want to be.
Very profound insight on my part considering the graduation ceremony ended with a Kanye West song.
And maybe part of my insight stems from that feeling I have carried these past few months: I’ve been standing still; it’s time to move. So now, I’m trying to answer questions like where do I want to go? Where will my road take me? What decisions will I make to take me forward? And I have been struggling. Treating these questions like burdens. The graduation this past Friday helped me shift my approach. Treat these questions like an adventure, I’m telling myself. This is the first day on a new journey and you can decide where you want to go. And if it turns out you’re headed the wrong way, then take a turn.
And to think, I wasn’t the one graduating this past Friday…