My May calendar is full every year, but especially so this year with two May graduations, a wedding anniversary, and three birthdays. Mother’s Day and Memorial Day don’t garner much attention, especially this year.
Due to COVID-19’s continuing grip on all things social, I tried two things I’ve never done before in terms of graduations. I attended one via a zoom link on my I-phone while driving with my brother. We were heading back to Ohio from a visit to assorted places in Plymouth and Cape Cod that are part of our family history. Grandson Jacob graduated May 4 from the University of Pittsburg in an outdoor ceremony. Due to lingering cautions about COVID-19, attendance was limited to two people per graduate. I didn’t make the list.
Flexibility Is Good
The original plan called for us to cheer him on from a motel room in Provincetown, MA and then do a bit more sightseeing. That morning it was raining and cold. Really cold. Neither of us were prepared for wet, winter-level sort of cold, so we packed up and started driving. I watched all ten seconds of my grandson’s proud moment on my iPhone. He assured me later I did manage to capture him with my screen shot as he claimed his diploma.
Sunday I’ll gather with the local Houston family at the church where my son-in-law Rudy has been serving during his path through seminary. We will watch his virtual graduation (COVID-19 strikes again) on a big screen in the sanctuary. He’ll be in the sanctuary with us. We’ll see his few moments of glory both in person and on the big screen.
It is a weird experience to attend a graduation remotely. It is weird, and a bit of a letdown after all the previous family graduations I’ve witnessed in person.
The Post-Graduation Path
These May graduations are a good reminder to take stock of all we do have and look forward to seeing where the post-graduation paths lead. I believe the speaker for Jacob’s graduation hit a home run with her commencement address, which she delivered from her home. Rebecca Skloot, a graduate of University of Pittsburg, wrote the best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The book tells the powerful story of the now famous woman whose cells were collected and sold without her knowledge. I highly recommend you read the book, but the details of it are for some other blog some other today.
In her address to the graduates, Author Skloot told about how she more or less stumbled into writing the book. At the University of Pittsburg, she earned a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and a Master of Fine Arts in creative non-fiction. One day in a biology class the professor made a brief reference to what happened to Henrietta Lacks and moved on. Skloot did not. She was captivated by the story and began digging into it. It took her ten years to do the research behind the 2010 New York Times best-seller. Writing that particular book was not on her list of things to accomplish when she was in college.
It’s OK to Not Know
Her message to the graduates was essentially this: It’s OK to not know what you should do next. Just follow your curiosity and see where it takes you. It might take you to amazing places you never imagined. This is a very loose translation of her message, but I think she’s on to something.
Graduations are a significant milestone in life and deserve to be celebrated with as much gusto and fanfare as possible. However, graduations are not completions of a chapter of life as much as doorways into a great unknown beyond the familiar routine of classes and campus life.
To all you who are walking across a stage somewhere this month and next; and even more so to all who would like to be doing so, but are again limited to what can be accomplished via video conferencing, congratulations! Enjoy discovering where your curiosity will take you. This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter of life. Enjoy the trip.
Thank you, Rebecca Skloot, for your inspiration.
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.