Graduation Musings

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I’m in Graduation Musings mode this week. May 14, 2022 two family young adults, plus the fiancé of one of them, will flip tassels from one side to the other. That brings to an end a steady stretch of family members in school dating back to 1999 when the oldest of this generation started kindergarten. The break from classes will be short-lived, as one of them starts grad school in the fall. This has put me in the graduation musings mood this spring. I am amazed at how differently my life has unfolded than I imagined it would when I graduated from BGSU fifty-four years ago. Completing a required list of courses and accumulating sufficient course credit hours to graduate is only the prelude to an education. Experience is the main event.

Graduate Means Commence

Graduations are sometimes called commencements. The ceremonies  date back to Europe in the 1200s. Such events marked not the completion of learning, but rather the start of experiential learning. Life has many more lessons to teach than fit in an academic program. Each new phase of life is a new class.

Experience taught me that failure is as inevitable as rain, but it is not fatal. No one succeeds at everything. When I transferred from one college to another one course didn’t go with me, because my grade in that subject was too low to transfer. No one has ever asked me about that failure. No one. [If you’re curious, the course was philosophy. I really do not care whether or not there is sound in a forest when a tree falls and no human is there to hear it.]

All Honest Work is Good Work

One of last year’s family graduates is working full time in a grocery store, but by now he had hoped to be starting a career in another industry. He is also fielding questions from a few customers inquiring why he’s not working in the field of his major. The simply answer is that no one there has yet offered him a job. The job he has is a real job. All honest work is good and real work. The money he earns pays for such vital things as a place to live, a car, a phone, utilities, and money to share, save, and spend.

He is working in an industry that feeds people. I can’t think of any work more worth while than feeding people. Nor can I think of anyone I know who has not changed jobs and careers at some point between graduation and retirement. Life has a way of taking us places we didn’t intend to go. I never intended to be A) a Lutheran B) a pastor and C) live in Texas. I write this as a retired Lutheran pastor living in Texas.

Time is Good Medicine

Things that once seemed so critically important, really don’t matter much at all a few years later. If I didn’t keep all my journals and periodically flip through old ones, I wouldn’t remember most of situations that once kept me tossing and turning through the night.

One of my grandmother’s favorite sayings was, “This too shall pass.” I’ve discovered it’s good to remember that when events threaten to overwhelm me. Of course this cuts both ways. Problems that plague me now will fade away over time. Likewise, the moments of sheer joy I’ve experienced have also faded way. New challenges and new joys come along to take their place.

The Teeter Totter of Life

Some days I cannot believe my good fortune. All the lights turn green as I approach. There’s no line at the store, bank or post office. The new recipe turns out to be wonderful. Other days, every light turns red, traffic is at a standstill, long waits consume extra hours of my time, and recipes I’ve used for decades turn out barely edible. It’s good to adjust to being both up and down, because experience has made it clear there will be plenty of both over the course of a life.

I remember the first time someone at work took credit for something I did. I was so stunned that I retreated to a restroom stall to cry in private. Today, I remember the melt down but not the details of what caused it. I believe the sting of that moment has helped me be quick to give others credit for their contributions. I also remember being praised and thanked for things that I didn’t think worthy of comment.

People Come, Go, and Come Back

One of my grandmother’s sayings was, “Everyone is a blessing. Some when they come. Others when they leave.” So many people have passed through my life. Some stayed long, some for only a moment. Several people showed up again in the most amazing ways. I was a sophomore in college when the man I thought would one day be my husband went to Viet Nam. After writing back and forth for several months he send me the “Dear Kathy” letter that brought that hope to a dead end. A year of my life invested in someone I cared about very deeply – gone. I never heard from him again. I think that experience has made me more sensitive to other people’s losses. Weeping may last for the night, but joy does return (eventually) in the morning; often through the mourning.

Congratulations and Good Luck

Congratulations all new graduates and the families that have encouraged them on the journey. May your failures be few, your friends many, and your education continual. You have achieved a major accomplishment. May it serve you well wherever you go and whatever honest work you wind up doing.

Thanks for stopping by. What important lessons have you learned since your last days in school? What words of wisdom to you have to share with new graduates. Share them in the comments so we can pass them along to the new graduates. If you got this from a friend, you can sign up for your own free subscription to my weekly articles and/or monthly newsletter at HowWiseThen.I focus on good people doing great things in our global village.

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures covers the Pilgrim’s escape from England and much more of the interaction between them and the Pokanoket people. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, eBook, and audio. (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
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