Don’t take life too seriously; no one makes it out alive.Elbert Hubbard
Our first child graduated yesterday. It was a big moment for many reasons, one being that it was a year we doubted whether him graduating was even a possibility. But, despite mental health, ADHD, and an addiction, he made it. Hell, I’m proud.
Experiencing the COVID-regulated event last week, I reflected on past mass-graduation ceremonies. I think that it’s safe to say that our culture suffers from a definitive lack of a ‘rites of passage’ for our youth. And as we attempt to find something to acknowledge their movement from childhood into adulthood, we lean heavily on high school graduation to help fill that void. I’m not sure it’s serving the purpose we think it does.
Below is my letter sent last week to the administration team at my son’s school:
“On behalf of my family, I would like to express my dearest and deepest thanks for yesterday’s graduation ceremony. I feel that it was so profoundly intimate that it meant more to Jackson to have the eight more important people in his life witness this achievement than a crowd of four hundred strangers. This graduation format was so necessary for Jackson and our family. As you may know, just over a year ago the idea of Jackson crossing the stage with purpose and dignity was the furthest from our minds as we struggled to help him through his drug addiction, violent temper, severe ADHD, and a suicide attempt. But yesterday was a truly magical day for him. (And, quite honestly, for Cate and me.)
You might agree that our western culture suffers from the lack an authentic (and honourable) rites of passage for progression into adulthood. As a result, the high school graduation has (unfairly) become the one ‘ceremony’ that we have (collectively) come to lean on. Quite simply, the pomp and circumstance of the mass graduation ceremonies held in the NDCC arena (many of which I have helped to plan and orchestrate as an LVR faculty member for eight years) simply pale in comparison to the beauty and intimacy of being ‘seen’ by those that truly know and love you. No one else but those most connected to you should have the privilege of witnessing your ‘rite of passage’. Yesterday’s ceremony felt real. It felt authentic. It felt honourable. Jackson was seen. Jackson was honoured.
Perhaps now, the Cavalcade can become what it really is: the de facto ‘public acknowledgement and celebration’ by the rest of our community. Everything just seems to have found its place. Its role. Its purpose. And although I am not thanking COVID for any of this, it does beg the question: Do we need go back to the ‘way it was’ in a post-COVID era?
I, for one, hope not.
Thank you for letting me chew on your collective ear. And thank you for your leadership during what is, without question, the most challenging year to be an educational leader.
Deep gratitude and respect to each of you.”