In the last two days I’ve attended three graduation ceremonies. Three. I don’t even have a picture of myself at my own high school graduation; my mother breezed in from out of town to attend and back out again as soon as the ceremony was over. She asked me not to walk in my college graduation because she hated them so. I obliged, and sometimes, like today, I still feel a little cheated. Then other times, like today, I swear the only one I’ll ever attend again is when my own son finally makes his way across the stage. But that's not true.
I worked at a university for 27 years before I ever attended a commencement for the sake of watching my international students graduate. That was a mistake on my part. I’m good at making mistakes. I seem to make at least one every day to keep in good practice. But every once in a while the stars align and everything falls into nice, correct order and I get something right, but it takes a day like today to realize it.
In the old days the cycle began with a blue piece of paper filled with scrawled words of great dreams and aspirations of how complete life would be if only they were accepted to my prestigious institution. Now it’s usually a blip in an email, "it is my dream to study at USM". I usually respond in a generic fashion with instructions for the first steps to making their dream come true. When the application finally arrives our exchanges become more frequent and by the time they are admitted it’s as if we’re old friends. Months later, if the earth spins in the right direction and I throw salt over my shoulder and jump three times, I finally meet my correspondent face-to-face as they begin fulfilling their dreams of an American education.
Fast-forward a few years and they are sitting in a chair on a basketball court that has been transformed into a place of dignified order, and a velvet-lined hood is draped over their shoulders or a diploma is placed in their eager hands and they walk across the stage and into their future to accomplish great and wonderful things. That moment, my friends, is when the stars align and the earth spins in perfect timing and I know, I just know that for once, or maybe three times, I did something right.