Sunday, May 11, 2008

Milestones (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

On the road from Hirwaun to Brecon, South Wales

As we enter the season of scholastic milestones, it seems like a good time to pause and offer some thought to what value such events offer us.

My eldest is graduating from DU in a few weeks. She has worked hard to become the best vocalist she can be, and I'm thinking she is a lot of the way there. For those who have missed her short video snippets here, there will be at least one more sampling after I record portions of her senior recital three weeks from now.

For her, it is bound to be a bit of an imposing time, one of wondering where one's life is heading, even wondering which way to turn in starting the long journey from new graduate to where I sit today, with all of the early decisions (and much of the midlife ones) well behind me.

Her sister, the third in line in the family, celebrates her graduation from high school this year, only a couple of weeks from now. For her, the next step one she has predetermined: off she will go to CSU this fall for four years of learning more about how to learn, and learning more about how to be responsible for yourself in the absence of anyone else running your life for you.

I well remember both of those moments in my life. When I graduated from high school, I was looking forward to a collegiate experience at one of the best schools in the country. Unfortunately, circumstances denied me the full experience, yet I have very fond memories of my time at Caltech.

College graduation was a very understated moment, although I was very happy to finally have the degree in hand. By the time I graduated, I was in my mid-30's and had two children. Metropolitan State College of Denver, a primary source of college degrees for Denverites returning to school after years (or decades) of time out in the real world, is my alma mater.

Getting a degree while working full-time and having two small children at home was difficult enough that I vowed I would never take another college course the rest of my life. For 20 years, I have kept that promise to myself. Who knows, though...I may change my mind once I don't have to attend to 600 or so folks on a daily basis, making sure their computers and wireless devices are behaving.

Milestones are a great idea we came up with. After all, so many of us find it hard to slow down at all these days. The beauty of the milestone is that it is a universally accepted moment for just the slowing and reflection we find hard to allow for in our daily lives. I know I won't have a problem getting time away from work to see my third daughter walk into the stadium at Cherry Creek (you can't really do graduation anywhere except in the football stadium when the graduating class is close to a thousand kids), because we all recognize the importance of the moment, one which marks the passage from kid to young adult, from home to living away from home, from dependence to independence.

Of course, just as I have wandered down the paths of my own memory as a result of recounting the upcoming graduations of my offspring, milestones in the lives of our loved ones are times of reflection not only for the participants, but for those watching, as well.

In my case, my high-school graduation was the day I broke up with the only girl friend I had in high school. We went together for about two years, and then it was over, oddly, at just the time when we could have spent more time together, at least for that summer.

My college graduation was more than fifteen years later, as I had reached a point in my life where I was established in my career, had a growing and healthy family, a home I was proud to own, and a marriage which seemed solid at the time (that's a whole different story, and probably not one I will ever discuss in this venue in any detail).

Aubrie, my eldest, is on the more-traditional four-years-after-high-school, graduation-from-college plan. I wonder how well it will serve her, to be moving into the world at 22. I know, for me, spending four and a half years in the Air Force proved to be my own version of living in the extended womb which college can be. Only, when I got out of the Air Force and came home from Europe, I was 25. I had a well-defined skill which was in demand and had me employed within days after I returned home.

It will be interesting to see how one who is an opera singer moves forward with her life. She actually is a versatile vocalist who enjoys jazz just as much or more as opera. I don't worry, but I do wonder. One thing I have complete faith in: my eldest is one heck of an adventurous and live-life-now person, and she will be fine in whatever direction she chooses to move...and will entertain and amaze people all along the way.

Her younger sister Wendy-Anne, she of the CSU destination, chooses a curious adventure which, by design at this point, involves not only herself, but her boyfriend of long standing. Both are heading north to Fort Collins and Colorado State University. Not that I would ever seek to influence their relationship--he is a fine young man--but I do wonder who gets custody of the college if they break up.

A wise cohort at work pointed out that it is a really big school, and they could probably both continue their educational adventures even if not as a couple, and not have to suffer too much from seeing one another all the time. So...joint custody.

Take the opportunity the milestones approaching on your own life's road offer to reflect as you pause. There's much wisdom to be garnered from that reflective time--for some reason, things are often more clear in the rear-view mirror of life than in the center of the time you reflect upon. It's something I find which makes my own life story just a hint more clear to me. Who the time I am done and have reached the end of the journey, I may have an idea what the heck I was here to do, in the first place!

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