Graduation Day: The Proud Parent Moment and Why I Skipped Mine May 10 2012

By the time I reached my senior year of high school, my case of senior-itis was quite advanced. As someone who went through the running-start program (early college classes) in high school, I was already feeling disconnected from my friends. I went to prom, the occasional football game and crawled out from under my books on weekends. Looking back, I'm not sure if I was anxious to grow up and fit in with my new college friends or if I just didn't want to be in high school anymore.


My earlier years of high school were spent as a social butterfly and my last year was much quieter. Maybe I was just changing my mind about a lot of things. My interests and wants changed for the better during those four years, giving me a new  motivation and speeding me through the last of my teens. Sadly, high school did not mean as much to me anymore. Like most seniors, I felt like I was done immediately after the first day of senior year. I didn't even want to walk in my own graduation.


Regrets? Sure. There was part of me that wished I never lost my "spark" and my willingness to be involved. I only had a couple months left when my graduation packet came in the mail.


I already made my decision to attend a state school just fifteen minutes from home. To save my parents money, I saw no point in spending thousands of dollars on the "college experience" just on the other side of town. I wanted to be enthusiastic, I really did. But mostly, I just wanted to feel independent and cross high-school off of my to-do list. 


Graduation meant something different to me than it did to my mom. To me, it meant hanging a blue and gold tassel from the rearview mirror in my car, getting pictures taken with friends and attending after-parties in my new University of Washington sweatshirt. Somehow, I couldn't quite get into the celebratory spirit. I didn't want to invite extended family to the ceremony. I just wanted to get my diploma and forget about it, such a selfish idea.


My mom needed that ceremony so that she could have her pround-parent moment. She needed to cry happy tears and take my picture standing on the football field. She needed the chance to frame my diploma with a photo of my special day. I wanted to skip it all and get back to my oh-so-exhilarating career as a part-time barista. I picked up a morning shift the day of the ceremony. I admit, during those eight hours, I couldn't help but feel like I should have been somewhere else. 


Entering the college years, I had an uncommon mindset. I didn't want to drink, party or experiment. I wanted to finish my education as quickly as possible. My loving mother still wanted just one good picture of me smiling in a cap and gown. 


Throughout college, my mom had several proud-parent moments. All of my journalistic achievements were pinned to her bulletin board. I got weekly reminders of my parents' wish. "You better walk in your college graduation,"  and my reply was always, "Well, sure. College graduation is actually important. High school graduation was nothing." High school graduation wasn't nothing. It was just as important as every other achievement I ever took pride in.


Moments like high school and college graduations matter to parents. They're those milestone days that parents dream about. My folks attended my dance recitals, my 9th grade presidential debate and they sat in the front row for every choir concert. That's where parents should be for those kinds of things: front and center. Even though I felt a strong disconnect from my high-school graduating class, my most loyal teammates wanted the opportunity to show me their love and support. 


My mom has four framed pictures on her desk: my toothy third grade school photo, my sister's wedding photo, pictures her two grandsons, and soon, she'll add a fifth photo of me at my college graduation. 


Graduation is an important and happy day for students, but it's also a day for mom and dad to feel proud and retain their bragging rights. The four hour gathering is worth the complete sense of satisfaction. It is a ceremony that marks your achievements, lessons learned and the opportunities up ahead. Had I walked in my high-school graduation, I would have felt happier than I did when I simply picked up my diploma a week after school got out. 


What I learned: Celebrate your accomplishments. Celebrate your future. Celebrate your memories and celebrate you. 

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(Marina Orievsky studied Communication at the University of Washington where she put her focus on journalism and social media. She has worked with Revolution Inc. and Papersalt since January 2012, contributing blog material about life lessons and about her personal experiences with transitioning from teenage years to adulthood.)