Ten years ago today I graduated college for the first time with an Associate of Art degree. Four years ago today, I wore the cap and gown again, ready to receive a Bachelor’s in English, an achievement I’d dreamt about nearly my entire life. Last week, I watched my stepson graduate from high school. 

The weight of commencement has been in my thoughts the last few days, what such a life event signifies for all of us, no matter your age, or who you're celebrating. It’s the act of leaving, like my professor Bill Gholson so elegantly captured in his poem for my 2014 graduating class.

Walk The Line (For SOU Graduates)

You are leaving like all the others. I

left too, so I understand. Leaving

is the last lesson.

You've done it many times before, I

know. Remember the child, remember

It all. Remember how you took your

heart and reshaped it. This is part of


There was a moment, do you remember,

when you understood all of this was more

than it seems? We all were there and watched you

open the door. You are there now, the darkness

before you, waiting for you. This is leaving.

Finally, you will feel your heart growing

beneath your robes. You will want to hold it

to keep it where it is. This is leaving too.

I apologize if I seem distracted. I am thinking

of next year's lessons. How did you know to touch me

as you did? How will you know to contact me

in the dark? I will worry for you and often wonder.

And this is leaving too.


It is an odd sensation to dwell on, this moment of completion that springboards into the rest of your life. The celebration of achievement in tandem with the discomfort of saying goodbye. As I sat on the cold metal bleachers the other night, I wondered, how many more of these will I attend? How long until I see my grandchildren do this same thing? Commencement is so much more than the culmination of education; it marks the circle of life closing one of its loops. Perhaps you have no idea what I mean, but when you leave a place where you’ve invested a significant section of your life, the joy and pain are overwhelming. And yet, staring into the face of the future is an incredible thrill.