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Graduation to Death

I had this post all planned out.  Usually, I tend to let my ideas come to me organically, but since Tuesday I have been writing and rewriting this blog post in my head.   Now, that the time to write has come to actually write it I find myself unable to use any of the pieces I carefully scripted and perfected.  I think they are too contrived for me and this blog; I created this outlet for myself because I wanted a place a to write that would be without walls, word counts and constraints.  I wanted to be free; do not misunderstand me though, I love being able to write for other publications.  Obviously, rules and requirements are necessary, but it’s nice to figuratively let one’s hair down when being creative.

This week I am continuing my casual work as an ambassador for my university during the week of Convocation.  Nine hours a day for four days this week I manage an information booth; I talk to people, deal with issues, respond to concerns and cover for unforeseeable circumstances.  Though it exhausts me it’s a rewarding  exercise too.  I am blessed with the opportunity to interact with graduates who are beginning the next chapter of their lives and  I also get to speak with their families and friends who are proud beyond belief of their graduates.

The road to triumph is often full of potholes, detours and distractions – to finally reach one’s destination is a feat of courage and bravery unparalleled by any other adventure in life.  Victories do not have to be as large as graduating from university, they can be as seemingly insignificant as changing one’s minor or major to follow one’s passions.  There is room for much difference to be made in our world and I know that each and every student I’ve seen will do something to make a change in it over the course of their lives.

photo 2*The day that everyone tells you that you’re special and you can break away from the regime of conformity they dress you and your peers up in identical outfits – go figure.

I wanted to tell the grads of 2014 that, “I’m glad it’s you, not me.” I’m not ready to leave my ivory tower of academia.  It’s that simple – it’s not my time to move on just yet.  It’s your moment; mine will come in time.

photo 1*Yes, I succumbed to selfie culture for this photograph of me in my work outfit; get over it.

But is that really true?  Is it ever truly never anyone’s “moment” or anyone’s “time”?  True, there are instances that fall into place and feel right but they can easily vanish in a second or two.  I’m glad it’s not me graduating because I’m not sure what I want from life besides the fact that I wish to live, learn, travel and teach.  I have some concrete ideas but who knows what will actually pan out in the grand scheme of life?

Graduation is a death of sorts.  It’s the death of true childhood, of dreams and of  a lack of engagement with reality among other aspects of life that tend to affiliate themselves with some university students.  It’s also the end of easy friendships, solidity among one’s peers, security in one’s abilities and pride in one’s work stemming from praise and feedback.  The sudden extinction of these frames of mind send the unprepared graduate into a tailspin and the prepared one hurtling towards the fictional universe called “The Real World.”

This comparison between one’s inevitable demise and the life propelling event that is a university graduation occurred to me today when I found out, via Facebook, that the father of an old childhood friend had passed away.  It’s strange what can affect you without warning.  I was frozen as I read the words she wrote about her father, her superhero.

Images flashed through my mind of the man I had known as a child.  He had always been tall, similar to his daughter in energy and personality while his smile was infectious.  Death is a graduation from living to non-existence in physical sense.

Cancer was the killer – the disease that apparently cost him his life.  What a strange phrase that is, because when I think about it his illness “cost” him nothing that mattered in the emotional sense.  He spent many happy days with his wife and daughter – I’m sure they still laughed though some of their laughter may have been mixed in with tears.  But they prepared, as many families who confront such situations do, with plans for the next day and the day after.  Much like university graduates they look to the future as an uncertain and intimidating prospect that could potential mean the collapse of their entire world as they know it.  So, instead of scaring themselves by looking too far ahead or staying stuck in the past they concentrated on the here and now.  Isn’t that what matters most?  The present moment is the only thing we can be completely sure of – why then should we not be wholly present in it ?

If we spend our lives planning tomorrow we never allow ourselves to experience today.  Each nightfall signals a gradual descent from today into tomorrow but it also represents the death of today which eventually becomes yesterday.

I’m glad to be exactly where I am today.   Despite all of the loss, pain and anger that has impacted me throughout this past year my emotional turmoil was softened by living from day to day, not month to month or even week to week.  Concentrating on the now gave me reprise from the chaos that was my family’s life over the past few months.  Living in the now is the most merciful thing one can do for oneself.

I am alive, in this moment and no other – why waste it? Why question it? It’s here now, yet in the next minute it may not be  – why wait until I graduate? because only fate knows what type of graduation that will be.  Death dogs our heels – it’s our faithful and constant companion.  Fear can often be its attack whistle but so can love.

What I’m trying to get across is that life is a precious gift that exists simultaneously in a million little moments and one continuous film reel.  It’s about what you do with the chances and opportunities you are given that allows you to move on, to graduate to the next chapter in your life.  You do not necessarily require a cap and gown or a death certificate to move along – you simply need to exist.  Follow the path that feels right NOW, not the one that will possibly lead you to a better future years down the road or the one you thought was perfect for you three years ago.

Exist in this moment and own it.  Hold it tight because it’s all you have – this moment is yours.  Rest in it, get used to it, ponder it – I can’t dictate what you do with it, because it’s not my moment.  My now is currently helping me to process the jumble of feelings that are whirling like dervishes inside my mind as I type these words.   Be present.  It’s the best gift you can give to yourself.


*I wrote the end of this post while listening to the song “Mercy” by Stephen Muss who taught me chess for several years when I attended elementary school.

**Carleton lost several students this year via the OC Transpo bus accident and other means – may my fellow Ravens all rest in peace.

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