This moment, I am here.
Graduation is just another beginning.
Today, my firstborn is graduating. It’s a big moment for all of us. And impossible not to reflect back on my own graduation experience, 31 years ago. Yes, it was a different time. Cellphones were not ubiquitous. Social media did not exist. And every picture we took was thought out, since film took time and money.
Yet, with these differences, so much is the same. We all leave something behind, and move toward something new. We do not just graduate an institution, we graduate a life. No longer are we under the guidance of teachers, but we also break free from the grip of our parents. And that’s the hardest part to process.
I always knew this day was coming. Just not so fast. I feel so unprepared. He has no idea that people/places/things rarely stay the same. He has no idea that some of these people, he will never see again. He has no idea just how important the whole of his high school community has been in his development. And he has no idea who will replace those people at college.
Only when he looks back, years later with the blinders of the present removed, will that realization set in.
It’s called culmination for a reason. Because it all comes to this. And it is not just moving on academically, it’s moving on fundamentally, as a human being, packing life lessons along with crates of sheets, posters and winter clothing.
My wife and I have had 18 years to prepare him for life on his own. In the months ahead we will have to let go of things. Important things. But it’s also necessary to hold on to things as well, so that these larger lessons remain.
Alec is also graduating the 2017 Class of Mom and Dad. We’ve taught him the best we could, filling in the spaces the school doesn't fill.
So here are the things we taught. The lessons that helped him earn his degree in humanity, from mom and dad.
- Differences are beautiful.
We chose public school for a reason. We planned this day in 1995 when we bought our house, in this school district, before you were even born. We wanted a school to allow you to experience a world of different cultures, religions, customs, loves. Your school was big but reflective of the world at large. Today, differences are not celebrated by many people. We see the President ban, blame and vilify others. And people are listening. You know that is not right, and continue to remain open to others who are different from you. Learn and accept people, no matter if some things are confusing. We don’t need to know why people feel or act a certain way, we just need to know that they do. It’s right for them, and it’s important to be ok with that. When it feels like the world is against someone, it’s important to be the person who is not.
2. Use your gifts to help others.
There are many people in the world today who blame others for their shortcomings. It is important to always take responsibility for your own actions. Groupthink is easy and dangerous, and independent thought is difficult. But strive to discover the things you believe in, and always do what feels right. Help others when you can, and show kindness at every turn. We all need to balance the scales away from darkness.
3. Respect women.
Not everyone does. To many they are objects, trophies, set pieces. You have opened yourself up to respecting and loving the women in your life, but realize there are those who do not. We see it in the news, we see it from the President, we see it on 13 Reason’s Why. We know you will do the right thing, but use your light to teach that to others. One person can make a difference, and I want that to be you.
4. Eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired, cry when you are sad.
The easiest way to take care of your own needs is to listen to your own body. Do not fight it, accept it. Taking care of yourself is sometimes made overcomplicated. It’s actually quite simple. You just need to listen to that little voice inside your head, and follow along. It will always lead you down the right path.
6. Don’t change for others.
So much of your learning will be outside of class. Navigating friends, classes, obligations, schedules. All through high school you have managed to be yourself, to stick to your beliefs, and grow into a wonderful son/grandson/brother/boyfriend/teammate. If something feels like it’s not something you would do, then listen. Because it’s not.
7. Call us.
I already see myself driving home from work on PCH, talking to you on the phone. That image of beach on the left, sunset straight ahead and your voice on the phone is something that I cling to. I moved cross country many years ago, and still call my parents every day. I know it is hard on them, as these next 4 years will be hard for mom and me. But pick up the phone for any reason. Sometimes just hearing each other’s voice will make the miles disappear.
Congratulations Alec. You have graduated us. You have made both of us proud of your decisions, academics and kindness towards others. Take those lessons with you, be a friend to others and do your part to make the world a better place.
The dream starts now.