Friday afternoon I got to see my friend, Rick, graduate from undergrad from George Washington University with his BBA. Rick and I got off to a rocky start about a year ago and have had our share of bumps along the road. I can say now that regardless of the journey, seeing my friend smile, and with his family, made me genuinely happy. It also got me thinking about milestones and formal points of significance in my own life. (Sorry, Rick, that’s your only cameo in today’s blog post. Congratulations.)
Graduations are, no doubt, very special days and important markers in our life. I remember graduating Yorktown High School twelve (gulp) years ago and thinking, “How could one ever forget people and memories from high school?” Surely, I didn’t know everyone in my graduating class but I knew everyone’s name. How could I forget “snarfing “milkshakes in the Yorktown Diner, making out/breaking up/making out with Joanna M., the thrill of finally beating those stuck-up, head-shaved-for-regular-meets, Tappan Zee boys in the pool, or showing up every weekend in Karen Tisel’s living room and partaking in some god-awful blue liquor? Speaking of the latter, I miss you, Gus. I didn’t really like dogs but you were always good to me.
This was my thinking in mid-1998 as I was leaving New York State to venture below the Mason Dixon line to some foreign place whose main recognizable quality to me was its red brick buildings featured in the movie, St. Elmo’s Fire, known as the University of Maryland. Flash forward to modern day and I’m getting Facebook friend requests from old high school acquaintances whose last names (even before marriage) escape me, and who my ability to recognize on the street is in question.
“How did we get here? How the hell, Pan left, close on the steeple of the church.”
Basic as it may seem, the thoughts we have about the future during the critical milestones – the graduations – are rarely 100% accurate. The reason being we have so much more life to live. Serendipitous moments (Seeing the same, cute, familiar face on the Green Line every morning?). New friends who question norms and standards, and as a result introduce us to new ways of living. Foreign places that somehow feel more like home than home.
The people and circumstances I have encountered in the past 12 years could never have been predicted. I didn’t truly comprehend the value of a college degree then, and honestly didn’t know what a Master’s degree was. Yet, now I’ve earned one of each. I’m so very privileged to have had the academic opportunities provided to me. They have given numerous lessons. Important as they are, those lessons pale in comparison to what I’ve learned thru unexpected relationships, new friends, and surprising circumstances.
My most vital growth has been spurred through the angels that have visited me in the form of friends, family, and, even perceived intruders to my way of life. The Jocelyn’s of the world who went out and bought me a card my first month of college that kept me from dropping out. The Brandon’s whose passion is only second in noise to his clap. The James’ who unabashedly just want to dance and find a game. The Jason’s who get me to swallow my pride and believe in myself. The Stephen’s who you meet for a few hours half-way across the planet and grace you daily with their wit and wisdom. The Nathan’s who will give you snark and sass but always, always have your back. The Charles Christopher’s who provide you with a role model to walk through life with confidence. The Drew’s who illustrate you can maintain credibility getting a PhD and still like cartoons.
I could go on forever and God knows I would like to. There are so many shout-outs to give to people I didn’t know existed during one graduation, who have profoundly impacted my life and shaped who I have become. It makes me hopeful about the incoming angels who greet me after 30.