That's me at the podium, on stage at the Greek Theater - 1994
Last week I had the privilege of attending a high school graduation. Such an event is a lot like a wedding -- they’re both hopeful occasions, full of promise. And while you’re there as someone’s guest, most times thoughts seem to drift back to yourself.
I was Lindsay’s guest. Lindsay, an intelligent, beautiful young woman was once a student of mine. In fact during my second year of teaching (2002-2003), she was one of the students in my kindergarten class.
I have had the good fortune of remaining in touch with Lindsay and her family all these years. And while I sat at her graduation, my thoughts were all over the place.
I remembered that kindergarten class. An exceptional group of kids, and even most impressive, an exceptional group of parents who were supportive, encouraging, and appreciative of my efforts in the classroom.
Now, Lindsay was no longer a relatively quiet little girl who sometimes would interrupt our class lessons to talk to me about her cousins. She is a young woman on the verge of new adventures -- spending time in another country this summer, going off to college this fall. And, I admit, there’s a part of me that’s envious. I listened to the graduation speeches and thought they sounded incredibly optimistic (and somewhat naive). They were so positive. I realized I didn’t feel as optimistic and positive as I used to. And that realization saddened me.
Twenty-one years ago, I was a graduation speaker at my high school graduation. I stood on the stage of the Greek Theater and spoke of the “lessons we carry with us.” But even then, I was learning that things don’t always work out the way you plan them. I wasn’t about to embark on the grand college adventure I had imagined for so long. I was about to start commuting on public buses to Los Angeles City College (and I’d later transfer to Cal State Northridge, also on public buses for quite a while).
My thoughts also jumped ahead to my son. My seven-year-old who just completed first grade and tells me that becoming a second grader is “awesome.” Someday, like Andy in Toy Story 3, Ryan will go off to college, and he will make decisions about what childhood items to keep and what items he no longer wants to hold on to. And I hope that when Ryan’s time comes, he’ll walk across his own stage with his head held high, with a firm belief in the possibilities that his future holds for him.
Lindsay’s graduation was a bittersweet event for me. I am no longer teaching, no longer making the same connections with kids, no longer contributing to a kid’s sense of worth and confidence. But, at the same time, I realized how special it was that I was there in attendance. That what I had done during her kindergarten year had meant enough to her and her family to keep me in their thoughts all these years and allow me to share this special time with them.