A week of sweet memories

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pomp and circumstance, caps, gowns, diplomas — graduation is in the air. Hundreds of young men and women stand poised to step into the next phase of their lives. Among the graduates is my niece, Grace, in Starkville, Miss.

This is an exciting time for those receiving diplomas symbolizing the completion of years of academic work. It seems like yesterday when I waited in the wings for my turn to shake hands with the superintendent and principal before racing full speed ahead into life beyond high school.

There were words of advice coming my way from parents, teachers, clergy and even friends with ideas and suggestions about the future. I am sure that is true for the 2012 graduates as well.

So, in the spirit of one who has “been there, done that” I’ll say a few things to seniors. Will they listen? Did I listen? Maybe not at the time, but looking from down the road apiece, I realize that much of what I heard was worth hearing.

What I have to say isn’t about where you should go with your life in the years ahead. I don’t have wisdom about the path you should follow because everyone’s path is different and valid.

No, my advice is to slow down this week. Move a bit more toward slow motion than full speed ahead. Take time to savor the experience of graduating from high school.

This place, this school that you called home is now moving into your past. The halls and classrooms that felt so familiar will quickly become memories rather than every day reality.

Take a quiet walk through those rooms and say good-bye. You will not walk through them again as a student so don’t rush as you leave.

Say farewell and thank you to the people who guided and taught you as you moved from child to graduate. The teacher/student relationship you shared changes when you become an adult. Recognize that they did their best to help you reach the place you now stand and acknowledge the role they played in your life. You will remember them long after you leave.

On graduation night, stop and look into the faces of those who traveled with you to this moment — your fellow graduates. Some of them are close friends. Some you may not know well. Still, you are all part of the Class of 2012, and that will be true for as long as you are alive.

A relationship with some of your classmates will probably continue as you move through your life. You will see them, talk to them and know the joys and challenges they face.

Then there are the faces you are probably seeing for the last time on graduation night. They will pass from your life and you may never know where they go and the turns they make.

So take time to see all of the people around you in their caps and gowns. Cherish them for this group of people will probably never be together again once you leave.

Finally, feel proud of what you accomplished during your years as a student. Whether you were on the honor roll or barely squeaked by with passing grades, you made it to this moment, to this experience in your life. For that, you deserve a pat on the back. So give yourself one because the greatest thing you can take with you into the world is a sense of your own worth. No one can give that to you and once you have it, no one can take it from you.

Cap and gown, pomp and circumstance and a diploma that says you completed this part of your life’s journey. I wish for my niece and for all of the members of the Class of 2012 a week filled with excitement and experiences that become sweet memories.

Enjoy these graduation moments for they pass so quickly.