I just attended my second graduation of the season. My first was the law school graduation for one of my best friends, the second was a high school graduation for a family friend. The law school graduation went much like any other college graduation. The graduates donned school colored robes with three stripes signifying their doctorate level accomplishment. There was a commencement speaker who spoke on maintaining your brand and marketing yourself to the professional world that the graduates were about to embark on. And there were hundreds of friends and family members in attendance, tanning in the hot California sun, to watch as their student crossed the stage to make the transition from candidate to graduate. While every graduation ceremony is a celebration, law school ceremonies seem to have a certain aura about them, an overwhelming sense a relief with just a hint of worry about the impending bar examination.
The high school graduation on the other hand was a drastically different environment. There wasn’t a commencement speaker to impart some final words of inspiration before moving on to the next phase in life. There were eight valedictorians, each with their own speech filled with timeless clichés and appreciation for moms, dads and friends. The high school ceremony was filled with possibility, and young minds ready to change the world in one way or another. While I am sure it’s daunting for them to think of the uncertainty of what lies ahead, they aren’t yet weighted with the heaviness of reality. As one valedictorian put it, “we are the architects of our lives and high school has given us the tools to design it as we please”. I had almost forgotten what this felt like, the eagerness to join the rest of the world in “adult life”. The feeling is fleeting, so the next time you’re at a high school graduation allow yourself to be infected with their youthful optimism.
I guess what I am getting at is the nostalgic feeling of attending a high school graduation. If Don Draper has never taught you anything let him teach you this:
Nostalgia — it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.
So while the past eight years have healed the wound of high school, the pain is obviously still there. As reality continues to set in, take a moment to remember when you thought you were going to change the world by any means possible. Don’t let life take all the youthful optimism you once had, and never forget that you are the architect of your life and only you have to tools to design it.