Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why I Hate Graduation

It’s that time of the year again. You know it when hundreds of pristine white envelopes from people you haven’t seen or heard from or smelled in years suddenly appear in your mailbox, all neatly filled with shiny pictures of glowing graduates in their best poses begging you for money so they can pursue their dreams. Then come the precious weekend afternoons and evenings spent making small talk with complete strangers while nibbling on wilted taco salad and brownies that have sat in the sun three hours too long. The parents of the graduate won’t even look at you until they make sure you’ve placed your card in the little decorated box, and they may not even thank you unless you donate upwards of 50 dollars to the cause. As for the graduate, well, you’ll be lucky if they even come up to thank you for darkening their garage door in between snickering in their circle of friends and jealously guarding their sheet cake, which they will not cut and serve until only family and very stubborn guests remain.  

Well, I have a word for it: infuriating. I loathe graduation parties.

That being said, this year will be a refreshing change, for although my sister will be graduating from High School, my four senior friends here at college will be going off to make their ways in the big wide world; one of them to Catholic seminary, one of them to a college admissions job, one of them to a volunteer corps, and one of them to married life. It will be difficult to see them all go, for they have been invaluable resources to me as well as great companions for Culver’s raids, sand volleyball, and intense talks concerning Natural Family Planning (glad I’m not the one getting married!). 

When I first see an NFP chart...
Last Tuesday my friend group hosted a communal meal where all the seniors were invited to share from their bounty of wisdom. While all four of their testimonies were touching and even hilarious, it was Kevin’s that stuck out to me the most. Kevin is a very quiet and gentle man who listens more than he talks, and I was pleasantly surprised by his testimony as I had never heard him speak in front of a group before.

Kevin discussed four things that had influenced him over his 4 years at college, the first of them being conscious of living deliberately. Too often we run around from class to meals to work to study without really experiencing what we are doing. Maybe you’re thinking “Classes and work are not things I want to expend energy caring about,” but since you will spend (and have spent) the majority of your life doing these things, why not try to get something out of them? You don’t have to downright enjoy them, but at least be aware of the choices you are making and the things you are learning (even if it is only how to practice patience). 

Which brings me to Kevin’s second point: patience itself. Does it seem to you that we spend most of our lives waiting for things to get better? When the school year starts, we wait for the weekends. When winter begins, we wait for summer. When we start high school, we start thinking about college; when we’re in college, we start waiting for graduate school, then a job, then possibly marriage…then a family…success…money…more time…retirement…the list is infinite. The truth is, there will never be a moment in our lives when we will stop and say with a contented sigh, “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life! Now I am finally happy and everything is the way I’ve always wanted it to be!”

Patience is good, of course, but perhaps we’re impatiently being patient? The Oxford dictionary definition of patience is this: “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” I don’t need to italicize anything in that sentence—you know what I’m talking about.

The other two things Kevin talked about go hand in hand: silence and examination of conscience. I probably don’t need to lecture to you about our need for silence in this screaming, raucous world. My home parish has a sign on the back door that reads “Make time for the quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud.” Cheesy? Yes. Truthful? I won’t answer that for you. Take out those earbuds. Now. 

Sergeant Saunders frowns on your dubstep
Examination of conscience sounds like something they only talk about in major seminary, but it’s much simpler than it sounds. Before you crawl into your cozy bed each night (or very early morning if you’re a college student with lots of homework), take three minutes to think about your day. Did you eat too much tapioca pudding at dinner? Waste seventeen hours on Facebook? Remember to say your daily rosary? Send that long-overdue thank you note? What did you do well? What could you have done better? Now you know, and now you can improve your life, with the help of God’s grace, little by little. Otherwise, we float through each day with a lot of unsorted thoughts, ignored consciences, and stomachaches from too many darn pudding cups (but oh, they are the best dessert the cafeteria serves…)

I invite you all to take Kevin’s wisdom to heart, and to pray for him and all the seniors, both in high school and in college, who will be graduating in the next few weeks. They are just as confused, scared, and uncertain about their futures as the next guy, even though it really does look like they have it all together. 

For the rest of you still plowing through finals or trying to dust off your long-neglected barbeque grills, buona fortuna!


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