Tomorrow is Graduation Day at my university, and I have been thinking about how many of these I have attended. I have been a student in a few and a faculty member in a bunch. Through the years, I have noticed similarities in all of them.
Some students have their caps decorated while others are just trying to keep them on their heads.
A lot of pictures are taken.
Politicians show up because there is a crowd.
A graduate does something funny as they walk across the stage.
Dignitaries make speeches.
The list goes on and on. Everyone who has been to a commencement knows what I am talking about. In general, it is a time for celebration. Students have accomplished something that a too-small percentage of Americans have. They graduated from college. They may even be the first people in their families to do that.
However, there is more to celebrate than obtaining a degree. Families can celebrate the end of tuition payments. Students can celebrate the end of research papers, tests and all sorts of horrible things. They celebrate, and I find myself celebrating with them. but, I also find myself a little sad. Graduation is a milestone in life, and, like all milestones, it brings change. That change is a beginning, but it is also an end.
Graduation is the last time that the group will be together. Students who have spent four years with each other will drift apart, and many will never see each other again. They have been through a lot together. Good times. Bad times. Classes. Parties. They have been a community, and that community is coming to a close.
Every year, students who graduated the year before come back to visit. It’s good to see them, but I believe they sense what I did when I graduated. Once you are out, you are no longer a member of the community. It’s a weird feeling of being an outsider in a familiar setting. What’s the line? You can’t go home again.
The faculty feels it, too. Students that we have seen grow from kids to adults are going out into the world. We have seen them everyday for four, five, six years. After graduation, we will never see most of them again. We are glad that they have reached their goals, but we are also sad to see them go. New students will take their places, but, as I said earlier, this group will never be together again.
Tomorrow is Graduation Day at my university. The morning will be filled with anticipation and excitement. The ceremony will begin, and people will immediately start to wonder when it will be over. Don’t wish for it to be over. It will be over quicker than you realize. You will celebrate with your families. A few days later, you will realize that it’s over, and something new will begin.