From kindergarten to university – and more – it’s the time of year for graduations of all levels

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

Mid to late June is the traditional time for graduation of all kinds, from every level of education from kindergarten to graduate schools to military academies.

Schools and academic disciplines have their own traditions from writing letters to the following classes to throwing hats into the air.

Honors and commendations – and, of course, scholarships are announced with great fanfare – and for good reason; every successful student contributes to the health and reputation of their family, neighborhood and larger community.

No family – or their graduate – stands alone.

Every family member, graduate or not, is a link to the past and the future.

What’s next?

For each graduate, this is a transition they have not encountered before.

For each one, this is a move, even a departure from what they have known and become familiar with and a step into the new – and inherently unknown.

Instead of thinking of graduation as a ceremony, consider it a gateway – an entrance into unexplored territory – and, in a practical sense, a step into terrain from which there is no return – and even, to a degree, no looking back.

For some academic transitions, in terms of classes, majors or even schools or career options, the choices narrow, while for others they expand dramatically.

At the end of high school for example, students – graduates or not – scatter into colleges, work or military service. Some deepen their connections with their communities, others leave and never return. For each individual, maybe even every family, life is never the same.

Responsibilities call, and opportunities beckon.

But for all of us, for better or worse, we never forget our roots.

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emissaries from the next world

One high school I heard about has a compelling tradition – they have graduating seniors visit – and speak to – the elementary school they had previously attended.

Imagine being in fifth or sixth grade and having a high school graduate come to your classroom to answer your questions about what’s to come.

Or put yourself in the place of a high school senior; what would you tell those students? What do you wish someone had told you when you were in elementary school? What, at any stage in your life, would you like to ask someone a level or two ahead of you?

For many of us, our choices in life are the ones set before us by people we know.

A majority of college choices for example, are based, not so much on interest or inclination but on the choices of older siblings or family members. A visit from a high school graduate – or college candidate opens, sometimes exponentially, the choices before us.

There’s no “right” way to go

The vast majority of graduates, at all levels, make choices not so different from anyone else.

Whether the choice taken is to go on to higher education, work, take a “gap” year or something else, or even a mix of any of those, the choice – to follow friends or siblings – or go an entirely different direction is up to you.

Some choices, by necessity, eliminate others, while other choices multiply your options and opportunities.

Some choices may be youthful diversions – others are the locus for life-changing encounters and formative relationships.

The unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life, is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective. – Jon Stewart

But no matter who, or what we encounter, we learn from it and, to some degree, it leaves its mark.

Even the worst experience, or relationship, or job, might inspire us or inform us in a way that a more moderate encounter never would have.

Sometimes you find out what you are supposed to be doing by doing the things you are not supposed to do. – Oprah

But at every stage of your life, pay attention, get as much information about the next phase as possible, and, if you can, take some good notes along the way. You might be amazed at your own thoughts, fears and ambitions of a previous time. And, who knows, you might be able to share them with a fifth grader in your life.