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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

It’s the Season for Graduations

A couple of weeks ago, my son Jack graduated from Elon College in North Carolina.  My wife, Sue, as well as our daughter, Lucy, and youngest child, Tucker, all made the trip to be with Jack for that triumphant day.

The night before graduation day, the five of us went out for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  I can honestly say that the four hours we spent together there that night were maybe the happiest four hours we’ve ever spent together.  We are a tightly knit family, and we generally have fun together, but that night was extraordinary.  Something about the moment, the graduation, the five of us all being together, our kids all being over 21 and into adulthood just made us all feel good, and proud, not only proud of Jack, but of each other, of our family.  We laughed and ate and drank the night away, until we were almost the last people left in the place.

It’s the season for graduations.  I imagine that most of you celebrated some kind of transition recently or will soon.  These moments can be tedious–we had to watch some 1500 graduates walk across the stage at Elon–but even in their tedium, they matter.  They lift ordinary life out of its ordinariness for a moment, and for graduate # 1174, our son Jack, that moment will live forever.

I didn’t attend my own college graduation.  I’d taken a year off from college to go to Europe and try my hand at being a writer, so my class graduated a year before I completed college.  I was in the Class of ’72, but I got my diploma in ’73.  During the graduation ceremony I was working in Widener Library.  I could have marched with the other graduates that day, but they weren’t the people I thought of as my classmates, so I showed up for work instead.

I didn’t get the dose of connection–that other vitamin C–that Jack and the rest of our family got at Elon.  It’s no big deal that I didn’t get it, and taking that year off from college was good for me.  But what Jack and the rest of us did get was indeed a very big deal.  The image of Jack walking off the stage with his arms raised in a victory salute will always shine in my mind.

Nothing lasts forever.  That’s why it matters so much to relish and savor all that we can.  I will never be able to look back on my college graduation the way Jack will be able to look back on his.  That’s fine; I have many other moments I can look back on.

What I am saying is that it matters a lot–like the whole enchilada–to make as much of life fire up and glow with significance as you possibly can.  Graduations provide one forum for doing exactly that.  The dinner at Ruth’s Chris, with the five of us, all strong-willed and spirited, ready to engage in debate or conflict at the drop of a hat, talking and laughing, eating and drinking together, well, this was life at its very best, all of us, as different and independent as we are, in synch, each playing our own instrument but this time in complete harmony with nary a discordant note to be heard.

When you find yourself in such a moment, as we all do once in a while, when it is over, savor it, because while it is going on you are so immersed in it you can’t step back and see it for the magnificence that it is.  But savor it for the rest of your life, bring it out of your memory, dust it off, and play it again, and again.  It’s the personal anthem of your life.

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