Graduation: The present and the un-present
An exciting time of the year as we watch the next generation of graduates walk proudly with their caps & gowns graduating from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. The commencement ceremonies and celebration are full of excitement, anticipation and the thrill of the next step in life. As the name itself suggests, it is a time for new beginnings.
The anxious uncovering of what is around the corner and the fond memories of how one has reached this part of existence are the cornerstone of this special season. Pop culture and family stories have made it clear that good times and big opportunities are ahead, yet we still cling to our support systems for a final dose of encouragement.
As we embark on the season of proud parents, grandparents and family members, we are often plagued by the absence of those not physically present to share in the joy (and nervous excitement!) of such happy occasions. For the graduates themselves, the few weeks leading up to the big day, are filled with excitement and readiness for the next adventure, but also intense and sporadic moments of nostalgia and panic about ‘the last this’ or ‘the last that’. It is also an opportunity to reflect on who and what got you to where you are now.
Rejoice with the present family and friends – acknowledge the accomplishment of graduation, toasting to the next steps and have fun laughing, hugging and sharing stories with those who are around you. As a graduate, be sure to continue to share your aspirations, fears, and future milestones with those who are present including them in your endeavors knowing they are the people who have influenced you through their love and support.
When it comes to those who are un-present, one of the most common sentiments for the present is guilt; guilt that you are there to witness this rite of passage, but the un-present are unfairly excluded. In accepting the absence of those who are un-present, know that it is only physical and your loved one has undoubtedly inspired the graduate and helped shape them into who they are and who they will continue to be. Take a moment to toast them and make them present in thoughts and memories.
To the graduate: One of the most tear-jerking line you will hear this season is, “[Enter loved one’s name] would be so proud of you.” It’s a tough one to swallow, but embrace it because it’s true!! Throw your hats high in the sky, embrace those who are present and be sure to honor those who are un-present.