As a college counselor who has worked privately for many years, and as someone who has also worked as faculty in a private school, I’ve attended many graduations—both as a participant and as a guest. This year, for the first time, I was honored to be adopted by an HHS graduate’s family, to celebrate her as she graduated from HHS. It was an amazing opportunity to reflect on how much she has grown up, blossomed and flourished over the years. I have had the privilege to work with her, to connect with her family in a different way and to be part of the spectrum of emotions that family members feel as they watch their babies embrace independence and the completion of one journey as they get ready to embark on that next stage in their lives.
But this graduation was different because it was one that took place in my town, and because I knew so many of the young adults graduating this year…and of course their parents and teachers and principals as well. Attending the HHS graduation allowed me to do a lot of reflecting on graduation, graduation speeches, and the advice of both peers and elders as students waited to be presented with diplomas.
I was impressed and moved by these speeches. The students who spoke were eloquent, inspiring, humorous at times, and certainly connected to their class. Whether it was a call to remember, reflect and become the author of one’s narrative and to hold close the stories of the class of 2019s experiences along the Hopkinton journey….or the reflection and celebration of a class that became the cement for the community or the call to be proud, passionate and persistent…these words resonated deeply, causing me to feel that lump in my throat that happens more often now that I’m older and a mother with children who have been impacted positively by so many members of the class of 2019…
And of course the adults who spoke didn’t disappoint either. Our superintendent gave a beautiful, short speech ending with five words of advice: “BE KIND. DO YOUR BEST.” Simple. Brilliant. Wise. The speech from our high school principal made me feel so grateful as a mom aware that in this time and in our town, our kids feel over-pressured, over-scheduled and more stressed than we’ve seen our kids in a long time. His advice to the class of 2019 was to take time to reflect, to appreciate and embrace boredom, to overcome FOMO and to appreciate downtime and self care. I hope the class of 2019 takes this advice to heart. It’s important—as important as it is to “be kind” and “do your best”, perhaps even more so because there is no doubt in my mind that this class will continue to do those things…but I certainly hope they remember this call to breathe, reflect, and to take advantage of down time. We just don’t do enough of that anymore, and we need to.
Then, 287 students were presented with their diplomas. I knew more than a handful of students in this amazing class. Some were clients, others were children of friends and fellow community members, and there were those special seniors who had been role models, counselors and mentors to my own children. I was filled with gratitude…to live in such a community where I am moved…by the students, the faculty, the friends…and in that moment I felt at one with each one of those graduates and with their parents and teachers, and it filled me up.
Community was my take-away this weekend, community and what it means to grow up with uniform experiences that bind us and ground us to a place and to its people. I was grateful for the connections that have become the glue to the strength and beauty of our thriving community. I left graduation, filled with emotion and hope and good wishes for each one of the graduates and their families, the idea of making memories, authoring stories, finding meaning, and the importance of connection. The invitation to pause and reflect…to be okay with missing out, or being bored….and embracing it… will remain in my heart and mind as I remember the rush of joy the seniors must have felt as they whooped and cheered and tossed their graduation caps into the air before marching triumphantly out of the gym!