As I drove away from college for the last time after my commencement ceremony, I was in such a state that I had to pull the car over to have a good cry before I even got on the highway. Graduation that long-ago spring didn’t feel like a “commencement” at all. In fact, all it felt like was an ending.
Endings are sad
My feelings about graduations continued beyond the commencement ceremonies where I was the student crossing an academic finish line.
I was a puddle when my oldest child “graduated” from our beloved nursery school, proof that my baby was no longer a baby at all.
When my youngest finished fifth grade, ending our family’s nine year run at our elementary school, I was in tears (quite publicly) again.
I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring my middle child. I cried at each of her graduations, too, as my heart cracked a little at the indisputable evidence that she was growing up more quickly than I could have imagined.
It comes as no surprise that my youngest child’s graduation from high school and the end of sixteen years of energetic and passionate family involvement in our wonderful school system feels like an ending of great significance. It is an ending – one that needs to be noted and even grieved.
Endings are also exciting
That said, it is also a transition to be celebrated. With this ending, a new beginning is upon me.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Semisonic, Closing Time
[Note: I discovered after writing this essay that the songwriter was inspired to write this song by the birth of his child.]
Looking back, it calms and excites me to remember that the beginning of this massive, meaningful, all-consuming stage of life came from “some other new beginning’s end.”
Despite the joy of pregnancy, I will confess to feeling frightened about the end of our years as “DINKs” (double income, no kids). My lord, those days were fun! We were unfettered by responsibilities as we poured ourselves into our new jobs and explored the people and places of NYC.
Yet, if these exciting days of the beginning of our marriage did not come to an end, our family would not have begun. Looking back, my hopes and dreams for our future family pale in comparison to the reality of becoming the parents of three interesting, interested, unique and wonderful people.
Realizing that endings are also beginnings
Parenthood itself has been filled with endings and beginnings. Five short years after I first cradled my baby, I found myself tearfully waving to my tiny son as that big yellow bus pulled away from my driveway on his first day of kindergarten. As his babyhood ended, so did a stage of my life that I’d never get back. My years at home with three little ones were coming to an end. In the moment, this felt sad.
But this ending was a beginning for both of us. My son was becoming a student. What I couldn’t know was that my beginning was just as exciting. I was about to become an active parent giving back to my family’s community in as many ways as I could. These next years would be profoundly more rewarding than the previous five had been. I would be a much happier mother to young people than I ever was to babies.
Which makes me smile through my tears in anticipation for this next new beginning. Again, the ending feels huge. My role as a mother is about to shift tremendously. I will no longer be sharing a home with my children. I will no longer be curled up on the couch with them each evening, be working side by side with them each afternoon, or be reminding them each morning that a healthy breakfast is a surefire way to make each day a peppy one.
In order to chase your dreams, you must allow previous dreams to end
As bittersweet as all that is, after 22 years of experience, I now trust that my child’s new beginning will also be a new beginning for me. My daughter will soon be heading out into the bigger world of college to chase her dreams. But she is not the only one with dreams to chase.
Her beginning will leave me with more time and space than I’ve had in years to stretch and explore, to dream and create, and to nurture my relationship with the person with whom I started this long odyssey.
As I dry my tears and take a deep breath, I can see that this moment is filled with the same possibility, the same hope and the same excitement as each beginning along my way. But in order to embrace it, I must be willing to let go and (as gracefully as I can) allow my previous “new beginnings” to come to an end.
I think I’m finally starting to understand why graduations are called “commencements.”
If you feel challenged to see the “new beginning” in an ending in your life and would like a safe environment to express your sadness and discover the joy within this life change, why not book a one-on-one spiritual direction session with Amy.