Ten years ago I donned a cap and gown, marched myself down a long walkway, shook a couple hands, and received my high school diploma on stage. This year I got to watch two people I love do the same; my sister graduated from High School, and my son graduated from Kindergarten.
As a society, we make a big deal out of graduations. “Hey young person, here is a piece of paper that is allowing you to move on to the next part of your life.” They do that for inmates too. “Hey reformed criminal, here is your piece of paper that says you can rejoin society.” We do it for people in love. “Hey couple, here is your piece of paper that says you two are really together.” We even have papers to certify birth and death. That’s a lot of paper for us to keep track of.
Don’t get me wrong, I was filled with a lot of pride while watching my sister and son cross their respective stages. My son’s little laminated diploma is precious and currently on the fridge for general display and bragging rights. I realize there are plenty of justifiable and legal reasons for these papers.
My point here is this: I have accomplished a bunch of other stuff since my high school graduation, and I don’t need any pieces of paper to prove it.
Most of them are not real, physical things, but more like emotional “graduations”. There are topics my husband and I have fought over enough that we finally (hopefully) have it “figured out”. I no longer get bothered when my son mixes up all the lego pieces to create a five headed Captain Ninja Turtle Hobbit Jack Sparrow monster. I brush it off when someone I love says something hurtful when I know it wasn’t really about me, but a vent on other issues. I recently allowed myself to buy something I really, really wanted, even though it was expensive and I didn’t actually “need” it. Ok, I got a receipt for that one, but still, where are all my Diplomas?
I’m pretty proud of my Mini Emotional Graduations, as I’ve decided to call them. I think they’re important, even if no one else does. That’s right! I’m an adult, and I have to be my own Cheerleader. Sure everyone loves some congratulations here and there, but if I’m not telling myself that I’m doing a good job, then why should I expect anyone else to?
So here’s my message to the class of ‘14; Whatever you do with the rest of your life, there isn’t ever going to be enough people who are genuinely interested, proud, or as crazy about what you’re doing, to make you feel completely validated. So, do your thing well, work hard at it, and challenge yourself to go above your own expectations of your work. When you do, go straight to a mirror and say, “Heck of a job, me! I is awesome!” When you believe it, really deep down in the heart of your soul believe it, then you won’t need someone, or a piece of paper, to say... Congrats Grad!