I took part in a surreal moment this week. For two whole days we played graduation ceremony for one senior at a time: one adolescent walked down the theater aisle, picked up a diploma, I smiled, read the student’s name as clearly as possible and watched them sit between the Principal and the Director for a photo. Smiled some more, cried a little, clapped loudly and showed them the back door to exit. Times sixty.
One adolescent verbalized her frustration: “at least you get to see all the others.” No music, a quiet and empty theater. One mom sobbing. Larger families trying to make up for the weirdness of the whole situation by making lots of noise. Someone had found balloons and were proudly waving the numbers 2 and 0. Everyone feeling excited about being on the campus for the first time in two months. Some were doing this for the last time after being part of the community for the past 15 years. Everyone wondering what future is going to be like for their cubs as they get ready to leave their nest.
For the past weeks we have been wrecking our brains to find ways in which to provide a ritual to our Senior students, as they conclude a very important part of their lives. Each time we thought we found a way to cheer this important group on, a door closed in our face. What if this was the Universe’s way of steering us in a completely new and unprecedented direction?
If the speeches are taped, and pomp and circumstance is just inserted by the videographer while he is arranging and cutting, in his studio, if the teachers who are introducing students are on different continents, does this still count as a real graduation experience ? I cannot help but think of this all as fake, staged, makeshift. Maybe we went about it all wrong. I have a feeling that the year before was the last one we saw our end of school rituals the way they were. As our young move into a world none of us can fully guess right now, I am sure the importance of ritual remains, for this is something so ingrained in our humanity. What it will look like though, remains to be seen: generation Xers, prepare to discard what you know and open your minds if you want to survive. This is THE invitation we have all been extended these days.