Tuesday, 24 June 2014

You've Only Just Begun

It's that time of year, students. The time of year when your dad will get misty eyed watching his little princess, suddenly mature and beautiful. When your mom will beam with pride at the tall young man you have become, even though in her heart you will always be the little boy who makes  her smile. Yes, it is your graduation. And as you take the stage to receive your diploma, behind your parents' tears and smiles, we wonder where your life's journey will take you as you make your first faltering adult steps.

Yes, it's your high school graduation. Across the land, banquet halls, gyms and community centres are unrecognizable beneath swathes of streamers and rosettes, splendid backdrops, aromatic with fresh flowers, glittering with candles and mirror balls. So many decisions, so much work has been done to bring you to this day. Grad colours? Theme? Song? Guest speaker? Invitations to local dignitaries? Diplomas? What to serve at the banquet? How many tickets to allow? Decorations? Class gift? Awards? Scholarships? Location for group photo? Fund raising? Fall grad, full grad, spring grad, safe grad, dry grad? 

Teaching colleagues and parents, I ask you-what do you remember about your own commencement? The loser escort who threw up on your shoes? The dress you bought in another city only to find another girl identically clad? The valedictorian who reiterated every cliché in the book? The hopeful youngster- suit rented, girl invited, flowers ordered, grandparents en route-saying "What do you mean, I need phys. ed. to graduate?"

I nearly missed my own grad when my school camping group got snowed in off a back road and no one knew where we were. The theme song at gold old South Peace Senior Secondary was Diana Ross’s "Do you Know Where You're Going To?” My escort wore a polyester leisure suit and fell asleep at the party. Three girls got engaged, two others were hugely pregnant. Nobody laughed at my class prophesy. And yes, my parents were misty eyed and proud.


Me and my friend Teresa on our graduation day.
Grad was simpler then. Maybe life was simpler too. You finished high school or didn't, got a job or didn't, went to university or didn't.  You may not have known where you were going to, but the world waited. Life, like grad, is more complicated for the kids of today. But the world will wait for them too.
             
But today is not about me.  It's about you, high school graduates.  Webster's defines grad as the act of receiving a diploma, but it's also the official statement that you have come to the end of your publicly funded education.  Now you have received that gift, what will you do with it? Because today is the first day of the rest of your lives. Every journey begins with the first step. Follow your passions and never lose sight of your dreams. The world is in your hands.

You've only just begun.