To the Class of 2020, many of whom are seeing your high school, college and other graduation ceremonies cancelled, postponed or otherwise altered due to the current pandemic situation: Allow me to share with you what I remember from my own commencement events.
Um, not an awful lot.
There was a light blue cap and gown from high school and a lighter blue cap and gown from college, along with unfortunate hairstyles for both. And even for someone who always welcomes North Carolina’s summer heat, I remember both days were very, very hot.
And that’s about it.
I am not alone.
“What do you remember about your graduation?” I asked my husband recently.
“I remember wondering when it was going to end,” he said. “And it was hot. Any graduation I’ve ever been to was hot.”
The memories are admittedly both a little fonder and a little clearer for the ceremonies of our children, though severe weather cancelled one of those in 2017. But even for those that went on as scheduled, the magnitude of the day was tempered by trying to jockey for a good seat, stretching to be able to see amid throngs of people, the need for snapping a hundred or so photos and, again, that oppressive summer heat. Their hairstyles, on a positive note, were all really cute. Also, you never really get over those strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” playing as one of your babies walks down the aisle.
All of which is not to downplay or minimize the sadness you and your parents may be feeling as the big day comes and goes with social distancing restrictions still in place, and as those around you have scrambled to find alternate ways to celebrate your milestone or to argue that the ceremony should go on as planned. It took much hard work, diligence and perseverance to reach this occasion, and you deserve to be celebrated.
It is just to let you know that we often put too much significance and pressure on life’s grand occasions, even to the point that they can turn out to be, well, a little stifling. It is also to say that in the grand scheme of things, you should know that you have many more special moments to come, and that not all of them will require dinner reservations. In fact, you may find that the smaller moments are every bit as special as those that call for an engraved invitation.
Instead, you will find that you are just as moved by things like the smell of salt air, a fine fish on the end of the line, or watching someone you love haltingly teeter at first, then set off confidently on little feet or two wheels. You may watch as the spindly sapling you planted grows into a flowering dogwood and as that rambunctious puppy grows into a steadfast best friend.
You may look across a picnic blanket at someone you love and realize that it really does not get any better than that. You may find that you never grow numb to the stirring strains of “It is Well with My Soul.”
You long ago marked the date of graduation on all your digital calendars. I am delighted to be able to share with you that many of life’s most special moments will come as utter and completely unexpected wonderful, magical surprises that you could have never seen coming. I believe you will also find it to be true that even when the moments seem dark and sad, that those are the moments that may turn out to offer the sweetest blessings.
Congratulations on your achievements, and good luck in the years ahead. We join in celebrating you. Take the time to appreciate all your moments to come, the big ones and the small. You already have some unbelievable stories to tell your children.