Graduation season periwinkles

It’s graduation season. I have the graduation season blues. I thought that once all my peers finished their degrees then graduation season would go away. The problem with having been in a rather rigorous program, however, is that a lot of my peers went on to graduate school. And so graduation season didn’t end, just now it’s full of master’s degrees, PhDs and MDs. Now it stings even more.

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Me, probably talking too fast.

Ten years ago today I stood in front my of high school graduating class at our commencement ceremony and I delivered the valedictory speech. I don’t remember what I said, just that I almost certainly said all of it too quickly.

I do remember the day I found out that I would be giving that speech. Our high school determined valedictorian and salutatorian solely on academics and so the top two students gave the two speeches. I knew it would come down to me and one other guy, so when a few weeks before the ceremony the phone rang in physics class asking both of us to come down to the principal’s office, we both knew what it was about. I remember the gleeful chorus of, “Ohhhh you’re in trouble!” that followed us out the door. The two smartest kids getting called to the principal’s office was apparently very exciting to a class that was 83% grade 12 boys with senioritis and a gong show on the best of days.

But as I said, we knew what is was about. And we knew it was a close, but in the end I had come out a little bit ahead.

It felt really important at the time. And remembering this story ten years later, it admittedly still feels quite important. Which I feel pathetic about, by the way. It was just high school, after all.

The other guy probably doesn’t care anymore. He got his undergraduate degree, and then I’m not sure what but he’s in med school now, so he’s done just fine for himself. And the student who academically rounded out the top three of our grad class, she’s a doctor now.

Look at where they are now, their success. And look at where I am.

I think highly of those two classmates and I genuinely wish them the best. Them and all my peers who have worked hard to earn their degrees.

But as my best friend so eloquently put it last week when I was talking to her about my graduation season blues, “This is crappy and you’re allowed to feel crappy about it.”

I feel crappy about it.

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Quick pause for a photo of me and Best Friend at our high school graduation, ten years ago today!

I wasn’t able to finish my undergrad let alone go through the master’s program I was working towards. I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last ten years, but my high school commencement was the last time I reached an end point for years of hard work. I know it’s not for a lack of trying that I didn’t accomplish what I set out to. I know what happened with my health is outside of my control.

But still.

High school doesn’t feel like “just” high school because high school was the last time I was healthy. It was the last time I believed that hard work was always rewarded with success. It was the last time I felt like I was in control, like I could do anything and be anything.

And now, realizing that it’s ten whole years since I felt any of that, it just gives me the blues. I want that back. Not high school itself, but the potential for my life that existed when I graduated. The version of me that got to give that speech. I want to be what she was set to become.

Speaking of that speech, I just went and found a copy of it and I read it. My theme, coincidentally, was success. Here are a few things I said:

“As we stand before you on our high school graduation, we are all hoping to reach that great place in life: success… but you see, true success is measured by impact. It is achieved by learning from your mistakes…And it is achieved by making yourself a better person every day so that you can help to make the world a better place…And our success is not who we are now, but how we have journeyed to this place. It is through perseverance and conviction that we have become the people we are today. We have worked hard and our work ethic will continue to lead us towards further successes.”

Well then.

Basically, current me, feeling bummed out because my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, just got schooled on the definition of success by 17-year-old me. That speech was a bit of a “snap out of it” tough love talk from my former self.

Don’t you hate it when those young’uns know what’s up?

When I said all that ten years ago, I had no idea how my life was about to change, but the last ten years of my life have still been full of learning from mistakes and intentionally bettering myself. My circumstances have changed but my work ethic has never faltered. It doesn’t matter where I am, or rather where I’m not, it’s about how I got to where I am, and there’s a lot to be proud of in how I got here. And 17-year-old me, while she would be surprised and probably sad about the way things turned out, by her very own words she would see me as a success.

And if that’s how she would see me, why shouldn’t I see myself that way?

Here is one more quote from my speech:

”My hope for every graduate here today is this: may we continue to push ourselves to our fullest potential, may we continue to find the joy in giving from our hearts, and may we never lose sight of who we are.”

I work within different limits now, but I have done just that.

I know who I am. I like who I am. 17-year-old me would be proud of me today, and I am proud of how she became me. It hasn’t been in the way that we had hoped, but she and I, we have still succeeded.

I can see that now.

I still have the graduation season blues, but they’ve softened. They were navy blues, but I guess they’re graduation season periwinkles, now.

I can see the flowers, now.

And that, well that is a success.

8 thoughts on “Graduation season periwinkles

  1. Very inspiring! I can relate a lot, in fact so much, that I needed to cry whilst reading your post. The anger, sadness, but then hope, gratitude and pride…I don’t know you, but it helps to see that other people are struggling with the same thoughts and cope so well with them. Thank you very much. I wish you all the best!

    • Thank you Vita – one thing I have learned through all of this is that no matter how alone we might feel, there is always someone else out there who understands. Wishing you all the best as well!

  2. I can relate to what you mean. I often compare myself to my peers who have the advanced degrees, career success, and families, etc. I think what helps – and I admit this doesn’t always help – is to remember that they are not in our shoes. If they had to go through what you went through, or what I go through, they’d be in the same position. We sometimes think that if others dealt with the obstacles we deal with, that they’d handle it better than us. I am starting to realize that is not the case! Many of our peers who look like outward successes, on the inside, are barely holding it together.

    • That is true. I never flip it to “they would be in the same position if it were happening to them.” I don’t find myself thinking they would be handling it better, though. I give myself lots of props for doing my best with what I’ve got! But you’re right, everyone is doing the same.

  3. HICatherine: I can imagine how “crappy” u must feel, and it I very natural for what u have had to endure. I am asking if u could give a happy thought to Athena, who graduates this Sat.! Hard to believe eh! She has been accepted at U. Vic Univercity, but not sure about that, still onlu 17. lease try and not dwell on thjs, it is what it is, and yr attitudeis still amazing.

    Love, Val & “Barney” who is 15 and a half now!!!!

  4. Ah Catherine. Your 17 year old self, come to it your 13 year old self was bright and intelligent, so hard working and an inspiration. And she didn’t have a diploma, let alone a degree, masters, phd etc. And that didn’t make her any less awesome- those achievements don’t define a person. And those are all wonderful accomplishments. And you are certainly allowed to feel crappy about things because they are undeniably crappy. But, from an outsiders view, one who knew your 13 year old self, and the others from your class, you’ve been educated and you have grown in wisdom, intelligence and experience in ways that most likely none of them, of us, will never grow. And your grace, generosity and eloquence in the way you educate others by sharing your story, through your life, your interactions, through this blog, is an achievement that you should really avoid underestimating. Because it’s huge-grace, generosity and wisdom are all qualities that do define people. And it makes a difference. The trouble is that you may not see the difference it makes quite as obviously. But it’s there. Just saying. Much love to you!

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