Today marks the beginning of June and a time when many schools will be holding their annual graduation/commencement ceremonies. People get together to celebrate the accomplishments of their loved ones and bestow their well-wishes for the future. We take time to reflect on the journey to this point and even if it was long and filled with set-backs, everything seems to fall away in the light of achievement. Pictures flood social media sites because we want to share these times with our friends and family whether they are our personal events or those of the significant other people in our lives.
So what does it mean to graduate? The word graduate is defined as “to divide into marked intervals, especially in use for measurement.” Think about that for a moment. Graduating is about recognizing and marking a specific period of time in our lives. It could be applied to not only academics but jobs, relationships, recoveries, rehabilitations or any other aspect of life. It is a time when we look back at where we have been and what we have come through, whether good or bad. It is a time to recognize and celebrate our accomplishments. It is a time we can feel proud of what we have done and no one thinks poorly of us for doing so. It is about finishing a period of time on our journey no matter if that period has been something positive (like academics) or seemingly negative (like dealing with loss or recovery). It is still a beautiful moment in our lives. Regardless of where we have been, graduation allows us to “mark” our life’s timeline at the point something has ended.
Most people talk about times of graduation from school but have you ever looked at an actual printed graduation announcement? Most of them still announce the event as a “commencement” ceremony. Don’t miss the significance of this word or why it is used! The word commence is defined as “to enter upon or have a beginning or start.” Commencing is much different than graduating. Graduating is about marking the end of a time period in our lives but commencing is about BEGINNING a new one. Commencement is about recognizing the significance of the start of a new phase in life. It signifies the beginning of our extended education or our professional path. It represents the beginning of our commitment to our recovery. It marks the start of our marriages or the arrival of our children. Commencing fills our lives with newness and freshness.. It is a re-birth of our path as well as our focus! As we look forward and celebrate the opportunities ahead, it is a renewal of our hope for a better tomorrow and a gratitude for today.
Here’s the beauty of both graduating and commencing: both perspectives are beautiful and appropriate! Life can sometimes become so difficult when we are in the midst of challenging circumstances. We get worn out. We fall down and feel like never getting back up. Our energy and strength drains from us and it seems as though we will never get through our struggles but eventually we make reach the other side. One of my favorite phrases used over and over in the bible is, “It came to pass.” No matter the situation in which you find yourself, it will come to pass. It is also important to recognize that sometimes we find ourselves in wonderful places from which we do not want to graduate or commence. Sometimes life is rolling along smoothly and we have great joy and peace. Naturally we do not want these periods of time to end. We don’t want to mark the end of something that makes us feel good or brings us joy. We don’t want to lose a loved one or have our own health fail. We don’t want to lose a job we enjoy or have to move from a place we love. We don’t want to think about “graduating” from something positive to something more difficult or painful. We don’t want to consider “commencing” something new that might be more challenging for us.
The reality is that time will continue to move on at a steady pace no matter how we may try to speed it up or slow it down. Sometimes we soar through life and other times it drags us along behind it! Time does not stop for us but thankfully we have markers to note significant points along our way. We graduate. We commence. We pause to notice and commemorate chapters of our life. It is a natural part of our journey to recognize our endings and beginnings and when we take time to reflect on where we have traveled over the many years, the markers of our lives bring color to the tapestry of our existence.
So for all the academic graduates and “commencers” out there, I applaud your efforts in completing your degree!” For the rest of you, always remember this: Every day is a graduation and every moment is a commencement. Each breath you take is a reminder of how different your life can be so take a deep breath. Exhale the past and inhale the future. There is always a reason to celebrate!