Today was supposed to be your day. I remember entering this day on our family calendar back in March of 2019 when the school board approved it. I can remember feeling my stomach drop, my throat tighten a bit, and tears well up knowing my baby, my youngest, my sweet, brilliant and only girl would be graduating from high school and moving on.
It seemed surreal to me. Like breathing only air through decades of children at home with me, attending school open houses, field days, rehearsals, concerts, plays, practices, games, rallies, field trips, parent teacher conferences, I would now need to grow gills and learn how to start breathing water. There hadn’t been a year that wasn’t immersed in something school related.
Yet there it was, that date. Your high school graduation date. It was on the calendar. It was real.
You have accomplished so much. You have faced and overcome so much. You havs shined. You do shine.
The world turned upside down. A pandemic blew us all out if the water and sent us home. You had to finish what you began 13 years ago in this very same town in kindergarten, but remotely in zoom classes and online from the kitchen, the living room, your bedroom, anywhere you could find a spot to work along with your brothers suddenly home from college trying to do the very same thing.
You wrote papers and took exams with the sounds of saxophone, euphonium, piano, and drums sounding different songs and rhythms from the basement, the game room, and the dining room. You pieced together the rest of the quilt you made from tshirts that held special memories for you and presented it to your class using your phone.
You picked up your last few things at a table outside of the school wearing your mask, one student only at a time, paid your senior obligations, and came home with a bag. Tucked inside were your cap and gown, your awards, your gold rope and an envelope with your diploma. And you were excited about it. I wanted to cry, and you were already pulling your gown out of its plastic wraper and pulling it over your head. We even dressed up and took pictures to celebrate.
Grit. Thats what they call that. Noted psychologist Angela Duckworth described it as
“passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals”
It is the ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles. That’s what you did. Its what you do. You rose to each challenge. You learned to make the best of it. You found ways to stay close with your school friends here at home while making new friends in a college you’re preparing to go to. A college you might have to attend from our kitchen and living room and even your bedroom again until its safe to gather together even as our nation roils with anger and injustice and racial inequality.
You’re excited about your future in spite of everything going on in the world. You’re already engaged in the world. You want to help to build a better one, and you aren’t waiting for your future to start. You’re already doing it. I’m more proud of you than you can ever imagine. I love you more than you could possibly know.
Congratulations babybear, this is your day. This is one of many days that will be yours. I’m so glad this world has you in it. We need you.
**I asked to reverse her collar for this picture so the school emblem could be visible, to show gratitude to a town and school that gave my five children the gift of amazing educators for the 20 years that spanned my oldest to my youngest time there. Thank you for guiding, shaping and challenging them to grow their gifts and to use them.