Don’t Blink…it’s one of my favorite songs that, right now, I can’t listen to without crying. I learned when Lauren graduated last year, it’s what graduations do to you. Suddenly the little faces that you hadn’t thought of in so long pop into your head every other minute. You see them in their Halloween costume from when they were four, or relive the first time they scored a goal or served a ball over the net, almost nightly, for those months leading up to graduation day. Every conversation with a parent who has been through this comes flooding back to your head because somehow you thought you would never be them, and yet here you are. It’s a time for new beginnings…again.
Twenty eight years ago today I graduated from high school, and I still remember the feeling of freedom that ran through my veins after the ceremony. Everything ahead was so bright. Looking back now, it was easy to take for granted what it looked and felt like, young and energetic with the world by the tail. There have been so many amazing days since then, but as we all know and have seen so clearly over the past few months, no life comes without its share of challenge. There is no way to make sense of what this graduation season has been like for the Class of 2020. Since Luke walked off campus on March 12, the day his team’s home gym rivalry match was cancelled, so many rites of passage have been altered in the name of health and safety. Who ever would have thought they would not go back to school, not get to finish their volleyball season, not have a school prom, grad night, or a live graduation ceremony? No one ever sees change like this coming, and yet they rolled with it. I have cried for these graduates as there is nothing about them that didn’t ‘deserve’ to experience these American traditions, but so many storylines in life take unexpected turns, and the silver lining of these unprecedented times is that they have already proven themselves ready and able to adapt. There is something greater and stronger about them because of what they have been through at this transition in their lives.
With the importance and weight of the stories challenging our country, the homily at Friday’s Baccalauereate Mass reminded me to be grateful for the Jesuit education Luke received. They have such a beautiful way of seeing the space between discipline and compassion, between ethics, grace, mercy and our human imperfection. The world needs this so much right now. It’s been hard to speak up this last week, because it is a privilege to get to talk and write about the things that I do. Self actualization as a psychological concept is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…the fact that I can write this blog and talk with my kids and connections on these topics means that so many foundational needs have been fulfilled in my life. And every part of me wishes that this was the starting line for everyone. Even with life’s struggles, my mind can easily wander off to a place of guilt for the position I wake up in everyday. This same concept that I have spent so much time thinking about over the last week came up in Fr. Goethals speech at the graduation ceremony this morning. Life is a journey not to just self actualization but to get to take the next step and play an active and positive role in the lives of others. We can only do this when we know and understand ourselves and what we can contribute to the world. Loyola aimed to do both of these things for Luke and the other graduates and my greatest hope is that they will carry these principles with them as they head out into the world.
Class of 2020, as you saw by the teachers and staff lining the parade route for you today with so much enthusiasm, you will forever hold a special place in our hearts for the way you took the challenges that came your way in stride. You made the best of it, leaned on your faith, family, and friends and managed to find the silver linings at every turn. These are the skills that will make life great. And I have no complaints about Family Prom and the extra time around the dinner table that was a result of the stay at home order either;)
Father Goethals said it best last night:
“When I gave up my notions of what would be perfect, it all fell into place.”
When we let go of perfection and take direct aim at progress, we can’t fail, and end up elevating not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. Turn toward the light. Be the ripple effect. Build the bridge. Not everyone with agree with you, but you are wise because you have been taught to question, and strong enough to handle dissent with humility and intelligence because of the confidence that comes with the education you have received. Use it for good, the world needs you now more than ever.
As Fr. Goethals said in yet another memorable quote last night:
“Your reach is greater than you imagine it to be.”
Go out, listen, and lead with a humble heart. Congratulations Class of 2020! You are equipped to do amazing things because through our struggles, our true strengths revealed.