Circumstance & Whatever the Heck “Pomp” Is

cap-and-gownI proudly attended my sister’s graduation last Saturday.  She is turning 35 this June and has been working on her bachelor’s degree since she was 18.  In-between her attempts at finishing her education, she has worked harder than most people will ever dream of working, she has started a great family whom she serves selflessly, and this past year her third pregnancy landed her several months of bed rest, yet she still finished her degree.  (If I sound like the proud sister, who can blame me?!)

As she walked across that stage and they called out her first, middle, and last name, our family screamed and whooped and hollered as if we were at an Indianapolis Colts game.  We waited two hours watching other people in identical black caps and gowns just to hear that one name called out.

I was a little overhwhelmed, as hundreds of names were called, because I knew each graduate had a story.  What had led them to this accomplishment and what (or who) kept them going when they didn’t think they could make it?  What circumstances led them to choose this degree in the first place?  I sat next to a friend who was there for a woman who had endured not one but THREE abusive husbands and a thousand other obstacles to arrive at her graduation day.  That story alone made me so grateful for the sense of purpose that has been bred into human DNA.

Turned out I had other friends who graduated that day whom I didn’t realize were graduating until I heard their names or saw their families seated near ours.  To each of you… well done!  I am so pleased to have had the privilege of watching you put “punctuation” on your education in that cap and gown.

As my children and my nephews and neice watched Mel receive her diploma, I was so proud that these kids have her as a model of determination and personal commitment to beating all odds in pursuit of the absolute best for her life and her family.  I believe seeds were planted in them that day that will continue to take root and grow for many years… hopefully generations.

At most graduations you hear a famous musical march known as “Pomp and Circumstance”.  I didn’t hear it that day for some reason.  Maybe the university decided it was cliche’ or something.  Maybe I’m not the only one who isn’t 100 percent sure what “pomp” even means.  But I can tell you… I know all about “circumstance”!  It represents (to me) five million things that threaten to distract us from doing one really important thing.

I want to remind you of something while it’s fresh on my mind.  Education is worth it.   You will never regret personal growth.  It’ll cost you.  And, because it is so important, there will be lots of circumstances that try to rob you of it.  But that’s when you’ll know you’re on the right track… when you’re not taking the easy way.

To my sister, my friends, to the woman I didn’t get to meet who decided to pursue a better future than being her husband’s punching bag, and for the hundreds of individuals whose stories I wasn’t privileged to hear… thank you for showing my children on Saturday that graduating is a big deal, worth pursuing… regardless of their circumstance and whatever-the-heck POMP is!

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  1. Congratulations to your sister Mel, for completing her education and graduating. I LOL when I read your family “screamed and whooped and hollered”. Wow! To stick with it for 16 years, through three kids, and even bedrest … that’s awesome, and it’s no wonder you’re proud of her!

    I also got a little lump in my throat reading about the woman who survived three abusive marriages, and *still* managed to come out on top. Kudos to her!

    Re: “Pomp and Circumstance” – years ago, I played the trumpet in a band that performed at all the local high school graduations. Of course, they all wanted P&C to be played as the graduates filed into the auditorium, so we played it over and over and over and…. well, you get the idea. In the larger schools, by the time the last graduate was on stage, my lip would literally be numb. Fortunately, because of the size of the graduating class, by the time it was time to start playing the exit processional, I would have sufficiently recovered. Ah, memories.


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