Sunday, September 13, 2020

Graduation in the time of pandemic

 Originally published in The Miami News-Record, May 2020

I finally graduated from college. I didn’t walk across the stage, but instead spent the day picking up a Walmart order, having lunch with my youngest and her beau (properly distanced), visiting with my momma (from six feet apart) and then coming home to watch some TV. It was not at all how I had envisioned my college graduation that was 29 years in the making. But I did it. The two semesters and summer semester at Crowder were all straight A semesters, even with a math class thrown in there. I graduated with a 3.5 career GPA. It was hard. I made it harder on myself due to this perfectionism thing I have anchored in my DNA and I could have eased up some, but there was that part of me deep down that needed to prove I could still do it. And I did. Woohoo. 

Right before campus closed, I got an email that I had been nominated to speak at graduation. I hadn’t even been sure I was going to walk since my niece, nephew, and Kady’s boyfriend were all graduating as well, all of us from different schools the same weekend, but the nomination reminded me that one item on my bucket list is to speak at a graduation commencement. So of course, I had to ponder it, ruminate on it, and finally write something for kicks and giggles if nothing else. So, without further ado: 

To the Class of 2020: wow. Just wow. We have certainly ended a year for the books. But here you are – you did it. It’s just not ending with you in your cap and gown, your family, friends, teachers, advisors, in the crowd, here to watch you in the culmination of no simple feat. But don’t let that lessen the accomplishment. High school was easy for me. College was not. I started this journey in 1991. I picked it back up again in 2007. Dropped it. Abandoned it. Kicked it a few times out of spite before I walked away. Then along came Crowder and people who said, “But what if you did….” and then my kids echoed it. And my momma and sister. And my husband. So I started. I went full time, online and started in the summer. I enrolled in seated classes for the fall semester, but a week-long hospital stay caused me to change my major, rearrange some things, and regroup. It would have been very easy to quit. Again. And oh, I thought about it. But I didn’t quit this time. 

My youngest always says, “Time and place” when she hears a story about circumstances and happenstances and things just working out. “Time and place” applies to just about everything in life, but man, it sure does for college. This past year just happened to be my time and my place. Your time and your place didn’t happen for you the same way it did for me. It doesn’t have to. We all have our journey. Some of them are straight shots to the goal, the streets lined with good grades, good teachers, classes we like, scholarships. Some of us don’t have support, some of us have to choose to work instead of going to school, some of us choose more time with our kids, some of us just need to take a break. 

However you do it, whatever it may be, just do it the best way you can. My mom has always said, “I don’t care if you choose to be a doctor or a dog catcher. Whatever you choose to be, be the very best one you can.” So to all of the 2020 graduates and all of you still enrolled, be you future doctors or dog catchers, this year you proved you can do just about anything in just about the worst environment possible. Remember that. Now go do big things, little things, amazing things, important things, kind things, all the things…the very best way you know how. You should be so proud of yourself. 

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We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...