Complete. Progress. Calibrate.
Like any rite de passage, a graduation ceremony is a cultural construct that briefly freezes time –acknowledging an individual’s completion of the requirements for being a student and transitioning the student to a new status. The movement from one status to another is conferred in a diploma, but the process is addressed in the ritual commencement speech. The commencement address, whose banality is kept in check by the celebrity addressing the graduating class, is usually an appeal to the truths that we tend to discard until the next graduation. Still, they are usually the truths that are most necessary,and most necessary to bear in mind during the more mundane moments of life, not merely at ritual celebrations.
Graduation/commencement…endings/beginnings….all in the same moment. Most students are thrilled to complete their grueling academic work and to be rightfully acknowledged for it. Commencing the often overwhelming march into adulthood without the supportive peer world of the college or university (or high school) can sometimes feel like a step backward. After mastering one environment and work, students must start over. (Hence, the commencement addresses that remind students of the excitement of beginnings and possibilities.)
While the noun (the) graduate has long been associated with Dustin Hoffman in 1967,
the verb (to) graduate really can inspire us as much as the possibilities implied by commencing. To graduate means to complete something. Completion is accomplishment, realization, fulfillment. We need not graduate from college to experience completion. When we complete we are whole. We may be constantly completing, but that is movement toward wholeness, which may be an ever expanding experience. Regularly completing in small and great ways, adds to our sense of fulfillment. We continue to graduate/complete throughout our lives.
To graduate means to progress. As we complete something we progress to the next something. It is optimistic and expansive, broadening and possibly deepening our opportunities and our lives. Sometimes the lousy jobs and difficult living experiences may also allow us to graduate to create a circumstance we may never have previously considered. All experiences may not be positive, but graduating is progressing. It is a forward motion and growth.
To graduate also means to calibrate. As we move toward completion, we measure, correct, adjust, and reset. We are always moving toward the next completion and always recalibrating. When we stop graduating and feel like we have already graduated, we get stuck in status-thinking. It is more like static thinking. So, during this graduation season, whether you are finishing school or not, consider the verb to graduate–to complete, to progress, and to calibrate. Congrats, grads! Keep graduating!