On this day, in 1991, I graduated from college. May 26, 1991. Literally a lifetime ago.
I had absolutely no idea what awaited me, out there in the "real world." I had no idea how things worked. No idea, really, how my life would evolve -- friends, relationships, romantic partners, parents, siblings, work, marriage, having children. In the end (meaning today, 17 years later), I did wind up with good friends (several of whom I met in college), a wonderful marriage, work I care about. But the path is one I never, ever, ever would have anticipated. Never.
Was I even capable of looking forward then? Could I ever realistically plan out my life? Can anyone? I remember exchanging greetings cards with JK, saying "42 days till the real world! No more homework! Free nights and weekend!" Who was that child?
If I could go back and talk to her, I don't even know what I would say. Maybe something to the effect of "you are stronger than you think you are. you are more capable than you think you are. go do something that scares you." But the thing is, I was doing things that scared me -- I was scared of everything. I don't know.
In high school and college, I never understood why graduation ceremonies were called Commencement. Didn't "to commence" mean "to begin"? This ceremony marked the end of something, didn't it? Over the years, I have come to understand how much that ceremony really did mark the beginning of the "real world" for me, the real world lived as a bird leaves the nest. I was still a child, both chronologically (not quite 21) and emotionally/psychologically.
But I went out into the world and I started to grow up. Again.
Right around the time I met C, I had just had a "growth spurt" of sorts, emotionally. I had begun to really find myself, writing, making friends, exploring the world. That summer, for my birthday, my brother gave me a collection of poetry by Charles Buk.owski. One of the first poems in the book struck me; I have a copy of it hanging in my cubicle (the one I never use) at school. I used to think of it when I was pregnant, the last few lines in particular would roll around in my head. Both for me, and for my sons.
The Laughing Heart
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
-- Charles Bukowski
I feel like I've had another commencement. A new life, developing a new me. Who am I now? Who will I become. What will this next part of my life look like. I just don't know yet.
What would you tell your 18 or 21 year old self, if you could go back to his or her "commencement"? Would you have listened?