This evening my oldest daughter graduated high school. A twelve year timeline as she walks up the sideline in a red robe. Her eyes are wild as she has abandoned herself to the moment. I haven’t seen her that genuinely in “the now” since her first cross country equestrian event. That girl’s eyes when she came off that 1.5 mile course through some pasture in west Georgia.
“Oh my gosh, daddy, that was SO fun!” And here she is, walking down the sideline, her eyes just as madly in love with this particular moment, too.
I warned my daughter for 18 years that life is not unicorns and rainbows, she’s not a Power Puff Girl, and ponies don’t live forever. My daughter has never received a participation trophy. Every ribbon on her wall was earned after years of summers and winters of practice. She never beat me at checkers and only now she’s begun to beat me at Gin without cheating.
She is not paying attention to the class president giving her “Five Things a High School Grad Needs to Know” speech. She’s twirling her robe as the summa cum laude gives his speech about classmates and friends going their own way. Checking her shoes against the AstroTurf of the new stadium. She is in that moment, that bubble, that cocoon of “the now.” And she absorbs “the now” like a dish sponge left under the counter for 18 years.
The school board rep speaks of “Success.” The guidance counselor, the principal, the guest speaker speak of “Success.” Not one of them speaks about what that actually looks like.
I told her for 18 years the best she can hope for are fleeting moments of happiness and she’ll have to be smart enough to recognize them. My daughter is well aware of reality. She’s just literally, intentionally, choosing which moments of this reality in which to participate.
I am relieved. I take great solace in my daughter’s ability to enjoy this moment. She is not afraid. She is not embarrassed. To me graduation is damn close to meaningless. To her, slightly more. To me, this is nothing more than society’s way of veiling the future by rewarding, and quite honestly mourning, the past.
I see her clowning with her friends in line. Until they call her name. Her back straightens, she crosses that black stage, takes that diploma graciously, and dances her a*s off as she moves on down the ramp.
Great, that’s done, now let’s get started.
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