A weekend of celebrating my godson’s graduation from university this past weekend got me thinking about life after college, university.
More than thirty years ago my classmates and I left the world of academia for the real world. Like my godson’s graduation, the moment was marked with celebrations, amongst them the graduation ceremony.
What sort of advice did the commencement speakers offer? Who were they? What were their achievements and so on? Was something said or done that would serve as a guidepost for my career choice, a life decision? Honestly, I can’t say I can remember the specific answers to any of the questions, though Chas’s graduating class is at least likely to remember some of the notable speakers over the weekend including former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and celebrated author Chimamanda Adichie but will they remember any of the words of wisdom told to them?
I hope so but even if they don’t I feel certain that they will remember celebrating – the extravagant cap and gown they wore, the long walk to the podium to receive the degree, the sweet sound of hearing their name said with clarity and certainty, the roar of applause from friends and family and flashes of the moments after the ceremony, the liberating feeling of achievement.
Not quite as clear as yesterday for me, but the hallmarks of celebrating achievement – passing exams, leaving school, getting into college, graduating from university, getting a job, a promotion and so on – has in many ways provided some of the inspiration, the fuel, if you will, for growth and development over the years.
As a teen girl, I likely thought celebration was all about partying and having a bit of fun and so it is on some level, though I didn’t hail from a big party family. Thus our celebrations were short and sweet but in time I have learned that celebrations have long term benefits, too.
First, celebrating life, any success (surviving GCSEs) reiterates the importance of rewarding achievements. It can be as euphoric as completing a marathon and having a medal draped around your neck. The finishing time becomes irrelevant as you cross the line, feeling great about finishing. I should know. Only later, when the feeling wears off does time become relevant, which is a good segue to another reason to celebrate.
You will always have special memories of the celebration. Memories are in the making from the day that we are born to the day that we close are eyes. And when all is said and done, the memories are always with us, even if they become illusive over the years. When I graduated from graduate school, I, for reasons I can’t remember, decided not to participate in the ceremony, not to celebrate with my fellow classmates. A good friend counselled against my decision but I promised her that I knew what I was doing. Years later, though I have my master’s degree, I have no memories of the commencement, no selfies or the shared experiences or photos of what was surely a wonderful day. But I do cherish memories of high school and undergraduate school celebrations.
However, I do remember celebrating with family and friends, another good reason to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to be social, to bond with family and friends, perhaps see people that you haven’t seen in a very long time, have a good conversation with a relative that you otherwise might not have had. Best of all is the feel good factor of being at centre of a fete.
It is in these moments, even if it is a simple meal, a short talk with Auntie Sonja, the displays of encouragement, the offers of hope, the words of inspiration, the expressions of love that you realise that there is something about celebrating that is communal.
And it dawns on you that in all of is complexity, the world is a big community and as and when it doesn’t seem so, all you need to do is remember the benefits of celebrating. Congrats to each and every one of you teen girls for all of your achievements in academics, in sports, in life. Let’s celebrate.