Column: "Sauntering": The hope of graduation days...

Friday, May 3, 2002

by Mary Jean Sell

Graduation -- not an ending, a beginning, says one of the signs in town.

It is so true. It is the ending of the "youth," "kid" and "small fry" part of life and the beginning of young adulthood.

When I try to go back through the dark and mist to my own high school graduation, I can still remember that particular day and one or two around it.

I remember being very anxious just to get the day over with. There were a lot of activities packed into several days right at the end of my senior year.

There was a Saturday class breakfast at a fairly fancy restaurant in Oklahoma City; a Sunday evening baccalaureate service, graduation rehearsal during the week, and the BIG day on Friday.

I remember it rained most of graduation day. I was going to wear white shoes and a white skirt and I was worried about getting them dirty.

There were 498 in my graduating class. We held the event in the huge municipal auditorium in downtown Oklahoma City, a barn of a place.

I was in the high school mixed chorus and the seniors were going to sing as part of the ceremonies. I was worried about walking down the aisle from my row and up the stairs to the stage. I didn't want to trip and embarrass myself.

Our class motto was "No Man Is An Island," somewhat based on the John Donne meditation, although my memory is of a poem, not text, because it was also the song we were going to sing.

I have no memory of the graduation speaker or the message. I am sure it was hopeful, promising the class every success in the future if we worked hard.

We all walked across the stage to receive the "book" our diplomas were to fit into. We went into the lobby to the various ticket windows to actually get our diplomas.

The English teacher who was shuffling the papers in Window S couldn't find mine at first. I remember a chill flowing through my body and a really sick feeling for the few moments it took her to unstick the paper from another one.

"Surely THEY wouldn't let me go through all of this and not actually graduate," I thought as the panic rose. "I had good grades!"

She found it, and handed it to me with a smile, wishing me well in the future.

Whew! I was so relieved!

I don't know if the life I have lived in the 30-something years since has been the kind of life hoped for on that most hopeful of days.

I know it has been a good life, in the main. I have not had to go hungry, without shelter, without health care, without friends or loved ones.

I have been fortunate.

I have been out of jobs from time to time, but I was always able to find something to pay the bills. I didn't always like some of the jobs, but I put my best effort into them, as I had been taught at home and in school.

I have been lucky to generally work in newspapers, the job I like best and probably do the best. It has been exciting, challenging, fun, tiring, exhausting and exhilarating. I have learned something new almost every day. That is the most anyone could hope for in a job or career, I think.

For the graduating seniors of this week, I wish them an equally pleasant life. I hope there are not to many difficult times, but I know there will be some.

I hope there are happy times, because I know there will be some.

I hope you can live your lives with a positive outlook and a willingness to be of service to your family, friends, community and country, if needed.

I hope you can find life partners to love you, care for you and be with you for many years.

If you have children, I hope you can help them grow and develop into their greatest potential.

When things get really tough, you might take on the attitude of the people in Alcoholics Anonymous, "Fake it until you make it."

I promise you, the sun will come up tomorrow, although it might be hard to see through the clouds.

Try to keep the hope and promise of these graduation days in your heart for a long time and in your memories.

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