Last Thursday, the 2018 graduating class at PECI took part in their commencement, a rite of passage at the end of a long, shared journey where each member goes his or her separate way to make choices that will define a life.
When one reflects on their experience thus far, it amazing to think about how these young students have each found their places within their school and how it has become a reflection of them during the time they occupied it. Some lived and died by the sports teams they suited up for or poured their soul into creating music or art. Some cared about the hallways they roamed and the people within them and spent hours and hours ensuring it was the best place they could be. Others, simply found their lifelong friends, discovered their own place and their own role, and made the best of the time.
Year after year, different groups take on these same roles and find meaning, while leaving their own mark if only for a short time. It’s somewhat humbling to think that we are all part of such a system and share collective memories from youth. While coloured by the faces that impact our own eras, essentially, the memories and experiences are similar. It’s also mostly the same in other schools and communities. That might seem a bit existential — stepping back from the achievements of each year’s graduates to see that others have been and will be in the same shoes — but in several ways, it is an important message for the grads of 2018. The people they look up to, the people who are doing the jobs they aspire to, and even those whose choices don’t enamour them have many of the same shared experiences — though granted each individual has his or her own individual circumstances that only they can fully appreciate.
The trick to adulthood is much the same as it was over their years of schooling, to identify interests and skills and to use them to find a suitable place where one can feel comfortable. The difference, now, is there isn’t one natural ending. Sure, there will be changes and benchmarks in schooling and careers, relationships will grow, evolve, and sometimes end, and there are many opportunities to make a mark on this world, these young adults simply have to put faith in themselves and the support networks around them to find a path. They’ll make decisions about when to stop or alter course.
If there is one request to ask of these graduates, it is that they don’t ever get the idea that the adult world is too big a place to be involved, to be giving, and to stand out. Perhaps more than ever, society is hurting for people willing to give their own time to help serve the community. It doesnt’ matter if one is young or old, if their brain is geared to arts or sciences, or how one leans politically. It matters that they have a will to achieve something and they are willing to lend their own unique talents to influence the world around them.
It’s truly exciting to think that one day, we’ll be able to say we knew the next big artist, politician, sporting star, academic, or technical whiz when they were one of 160 faces walking across that stage with the Class of 2018. That sort of thing can happen in any year and in any community — sometimes, it’s the student one expects now, sometimes it’s not.
Thank you to those people who did, one day, cross that same stage and make a decision to have an influence by parenting, teaching, or inspiring youth. Their legacy is intertwined with that of these graduates and it will be shared with generations to come, long after we’re but memories of those who followed that same journey once upon a time.