For those of us just starting out
The wave of college graduations has crested, with our own Simmons Commencement on May 20. Reading the stories from the ceremony gave me that little boost of motivation that I needed as I ended my one-week vacation between Spring and Summer semesters. Eye on the Prize. Now the high school graduations begin. The June class of 2011 will graduate from Boston Day and Evening Academy will be walking across the stage next week.
This graduation looks a lot like any other. There are balloons, happy and nostalgic families, young people brimming with pride as they receive a diploma, speeches encouraging graduates to go out and change the world. This graduation is made special with the addition of one more element of these graduates: the element of incredulity that their time has come. To talk about the effort and perseverance of these students seems trite - who can honestly say that they graduated from an academic institution with no effort, and nothing to overcome? But how many of us never saw ourselves succeeding in the first place? I remember pushing through the last project of my masters program and googling rare tropical diseases that would sound realistic yet obscure enough to get me out of those last few weeks. But come graduation day, I wasn't shocked to find myself donning my mortarboard. I knew, deep down, that I would somehow get it done.
That's not a given for everyone. Life gets in the way. Basic survival trumps learning how to write a 5-paragraph essay. Sometimes we look up and realize that the huge obstacle standing in the way is actually ourselves. That's why the look on students' faces as they shake hands and receive a diploma is both a joy to behold, and a solemn reminder of how many students don't make it to that stage for such complex reasons, yet all with a common mindset; they don't think they can.
In honor of all graduates out there from Kindergarten to College, here is one of my favorite poems, taken from a fantastic website, Poetry 180; A Poem a Day for American High Schools.
"Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?"
Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave
your house or apartment. Go out into the world.
It's all right to carry a notebook but a cheap
one is best, with pages the color of weak tea
and on the front a kitten or a space ship.
Avoid any enclosed space where more than
three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware
any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks
across the muffled tennis courts.
Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.
And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle
where a child a year or two old is playing as his
mother browses the ranks of the dead.
Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.
The title, the author's name, the brooding photo
on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray
book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher
it gets, the wider he grins.
You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower
falls, be like that child. Laugh so loud everybody
in the world frowns and says, "Shhhh."
Then start again.