Let the Commencements Commence
My little baby boy graduates from high school tonight.
I know I’m not the only mom on the planet with tears in my eyes this season, so I won’t go into how emotional this milestone has made me. Graduating a kid is a big deal, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you get your children through school without them getting messed up on drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, or dropping out altogether — that is something to celebrate. I’m certainly going to raise up a hoot-n-holler, since I am one of the lucky mommies this year.
BY ALL RIGHTS, I SHOULD NOT BE ON THIS LIST.
I should be on that other side of the coin — the one wherein my kiddo is a statistic, and not a good one. He should totally be a dropout crackhead with at least five kids notched on his belt.
No lie. In the game of life, I poorly played an already foul hand and should have come in last place.
I have mentioned my issues with Depression. You can read all about that fun party if you missed it, but I’m not going to talk about it today. For the purposes of this post, let it be enough for me to say, being the child of an emotionally unstable mother wasn’t the best childhood experience. But we made it through.
I had my son very, very young. As a matter of fact, he was born the day after I turned 18. I was young, impetuous, and unprepared. His arrival saved my life and changed it for the better.
It was the first thing I had done “right” after a long record of doing all the things WRONG. Being a young, unwed, single mother wasn’t the best way to start this baby’s life. But we made it through, he and I.
Because of my young, unwed, single, and emotionally unstable status, I kept looking for someone else to save me. As a result, I am a multiple divorcee, but married this time for good.
Still, bouncing around from one potential daddy to the next was really rough for him, and didn’t exactly provide the best example of what a man should be. Lack of a solid male role model from one year to the next wasn’t the best upbringing. But we made it through, he and I, and now my husband, too.
Because of all the aforementioned lifestyle tendencies (are you keeping count?), we moved around a lot. No, I mean A SHIT TON of a lot!
Lack of roots, no village on which to rely, leaving friends behind and being forced to make new ones — all this should have made for a strike out.
BUT SOMEHOW IT DIDN’T.
Somehow, he weathered each challenge and came out the better for it.
He kept up his grades, participated successfully in school sports, joined church and attended on his own, became active in community service, and is suddenly this respectable adult who by all rights should be a severely damaged young man.
His graduation tonight is the culmination not just of his education, but of an entire lifetime of making good choices in spite of crazy odds.
COMMENCE WITH THE COMMENCEMENT, ALREADY!
The most famous commencement speech this year comes from one of my very favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. With no college background, he is another example of someone who made himself spectacular despite the odds.
How did he do it? The same way all great people do — a firm sense of purpose and direction; consistent forward motion; a desire to be happy, and the determination to see things through.
These innate qualities can not be taught within walls. They are characteristics one instinctively picks up along the path of life and intrinsically carries as part and parcel of one’s very soul.
We all carry this ability, but not all are attuned enough with their inner spirit to actively turn on the light. Most of us fumble in the dark for ages. Many will grow weary and lie down in the muck. Others will continue stumbling halfheartedly along down the unlit path.
A smaller portion will bravely set forth down the trail, slowly building a brazier bright enough to explode the cave into brilliance. And the tiniest fraction of these will lead the way for the rest of us, bringing us into the light with them.
Mr. Gaiman offered several great gems in his speech, but I took away these four in particular:
1. View your goals as mountains toward which to aim. Keep your mountain in sight and always move that direction. Ensure every choice you make is leading you TOWARD the mountain, not away from it.
2. When you aren’t sure what it means to be wise, just act how you think a wise person would. Emulate wisdom. No one else will know the difference.
BEST TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD.
3. There are three qualities everyone looks for in a person. Lucky for us, just possessing two of the three is often enough to get by.
a. Be punctual.
b. Be kind.
c. Be talented.
If your work is always turned in on time, and you’re simply a pleasure to deal with, it might not matter so much that your offerings aren’t that impressive.
If you’re always a pleasure to deal with, and your skills are beyond measure, it might not matter so much that your work tends to run late.
If your skills are beyond measure, and your work is always turned in on time, it might not matter so much that you are a bit on the snarky side.
MAKE GOOD ART.
In the worst of times, no matter what’s happening around you, regardless of the worst of circumstances, always and forever. Make good art.
This applies to everyone. What ever you do, make it good. I know my son will succeed at this, because he already does. He makes it good. And that’s the best any of us can ask.