Graduation ceremonies can be summed up in one word: Chaos. Emotions are running high, patience is running low, crowds are ridiculously smothering,  and people are forced to sit by strangers for an exaggerated amount of time. Grandpa doesn't want to sit on the bleachers. Aunt Betty's arthritis is acting up and she forgot her medication. You forgot to charge the battery pack for the camera. There is a screaming baby in front of you (with a smelly diaper...or maybe that's grandpa...who knows). Bathroom lines are as long as Disneyland. It's either too hot or too cold. The speeches are boring and uninspiring. It's easy to see the negative in a moment we should be celebrating a momentous time in the life of a loved one. 

So, I decided this year to look for the positive lessons to be learned from graduation ceremonies. And, I was surprised by my own observations. Some made me laugh and others, well, they made me cry. So, here are 7 Life Lessons to Learn from a Graduation Ceremony.

1. There is always someone cheering you on (even if it's yourself). 


Every time a graduate's name was announced over the speaker,  somewhere in the bleachers a cheer would erupt. Sometimes the crowd was large, other times it was small.  People screamed at the top of their lungs, blew whistles, used blow horns, and even released balloons. Colorful signs dotted the crowd with Sharpie written names and funny sayings. I got choked up. 

It reminded me that in life, we all have a small crowd cheering us on. Whether it's our first day of chemotherapy, or we need a funny text message to ease a bad work day,  or we just need to have a Starbucks with a friend to vent about taxes; we all have our crowds. And, not all crowds are created equally. We each have different types of cheering sections for our lives. We have large crowds, like co-workers and church families, and smaller crowds like parents and best friends. But, each of us have a cheering section to help us navigate through the highs and lows of life. 

As a quick side note, I observed that some of the graduates upon standing on the podium with their diploma in hand would pump their fists in the air, celebrating themselves and their awesome accomplishment. Sometimes there will days when we have to cheer ourselves on, encouraging ourselves with our not-so-sane inner monologue of, "You can do this!" or "Way to go!"or "Get out of bed and brush your hair today". Hey, I have a lot of hair. Don't judge.

2. Impromptu moments will never be regretted


Last night at the graduation, one of the graduates stopped in the middle of the crowd and took a quick selfie of herself with the large crowd cascading behind her. It was brief, out of the ordinary, and I loved it! She felt the need to do it and obeyed. Impromptu moments or ideas ignite the soul to live. Do it. Obey your inner voice. You'll never regret doing so. 

3. Teachers do make a difference. 


As an adult, this sounds like an anthem to all educators. But, it is not. Not all teachers are good, I get it. But, listening to the speeches I could hear a distinct nod to the admirable teachers amongst us. They love their students, they believe in their students, and in return, their students love them. In the United States teacher's are not rightfully compensated (this is not up for debate); but, if I were one of the teachers in the crowd last night, I think my heart would've been full knowing I had impacted the vast sea of graduates before me. Yeah, I know that doesn't pay for that Hawaii trip, but I think the truly great teachers understand their impact has no value. It's priceless. 

My own son sat amongst the crowd of graduates last night and I couldn't help but think of a loving, selfless teacher who sacrificed her lunches and personal time to tutor him all year in math so he could graduate. When I asked him about it, he said, "She just believes in me". Ouch...my heart just grew a size for that woman. Teachers do make a difference.


4. Dream Crazy Dreams


One of my favorite moments was when of the speakers, a beautiful bright-eyed girl, said as advice to her fellow graduates, "Take a month off and see the world". The adults around me gasped as if she'd just told them to shoot up heroin through their toes. I could hear the crowd whisper, "Is she crazy?", "What horrible advice", "She doesn't live in the real world." I waited for the pitchforks and stoning to begin. The lady in front of me looked at her husband and rolled her eyes so exaggerated-like I thought for sure she was having some type of seizure. 

Here's the brutal, honest truth. They are jealous. They have lived their lives in a safe zone, never adventuring out to the unknown or unseen. They haven't done it, so they think no one else should as well. It's unpractical, not realistic, can't be done. Some of my favorite memories and greatest lessons have come from the moments I took the head-first leap towards my dreams. It was refreshing to hear this wise-beyond-her-years speaker give such noble advice. Dream Crazy Dreams.

5. Music makes everything better


The most breathtaking and moving rendition of "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" was performed by a large chorale group and orchestra at my son's ceremony. Not a dry eye in the crowd could be found. I think God came and sat amongst the crowd to watch it, or better yet, he moved through the voices and the fingers of the musicians. Music has that kind of power. If you are a musician, remember that the power you have to create can literally change the world. You are masters of people's emotions and a part of their lives. Use your talent wisely. Music makes everything better. 

6. Not All Endings are Bad


Tears were shed last night. I was a blubbering idiot as my son's name was called. When I looked to my left and to my right other parents and grandparents were right there along with me. Wiping tears away. And, the graduates themselves hugged and cried at the end of the ceremony. As I watched from a distance I realized that the tears shed were happy and joyful. I realized that not all endings are bad. They are just the next step in the journey. This show may have ended, but they've got their bags packed and tickets paid for the next adventure to come. It helped me reflect on my own endings, whether it was relationships, jobs, houses, or whatever, they all prepared me for the next great step in life I needed to take. Not all endings are bad.

7. Face Your Fears


Every speaker said the same thing, "I am terrified of public speaking." They each gave their speeches, some boring, some funny, some with cracked voices, some with robot voices; but, I didn't judge. Why? Because they were facing their fears. I don't remember much of what was said but I remember how I felt. Inspired. 

That's right. I was watching an individual face one of their biggest fears and they didn't die in the process. They pushed through, strapped on their boots, put their big girl panties on, and did what had to be done. Face their fear. Wow.

8. Enjoy Life's Little Inconveniences


I'm not exaggerating, but I had to park almost one mile from the actual ceremony. I huffed and puffed about it the entire wind-infested walk to the ceremony (in high-heels, nonetheless). And, I dreaded the long walk back. I was quite negative about it. 

Then, all of my family left to get the party ready for my son, Tanner, which left me alone to wait for him to say his good-bye's to his friends and take last minute pictures. When Tanner finished, we made the long trek back to the car together and alone. And soon, Tanner was opening up about a modge-podge of different topics. His future. His college choice. His goals. His friends. His doubts. His fears. My dreaded walk went from a major inconvenience to one of the most memorable moments I've had with my child. I wouldn't trade that memory for anything. 

As soon as I got in the car I scribbled down this thought in my notepad. Enjoy life's little inconveniences. Truth be told, you never know what will come from them. For me, it was precious time with my son who will now be launching off on his own life's journey.

And, yes, I hope he takes one month off and sees the world. 

Heck, I might join him.