Recently I attended my brother’s college graduation. Over 1,200 students graduate and undergraduate alike, walked up on that stage and obtained what had taken at least four years to achieve – a college degree. Quite frankly, the ceremony was anything but thrilling; the usual pomp and circumstance amidst the flashing camera lights of parents and relatives brimming with pride hoping to capture forever that momentous occasion. It was not the drawn out, sluggish procession of graduation formalities that struck me, it was the students.
Most sat there in a bubble of anxiety of what was to come, and nostalgia for what never could be again. Some knew this moment would come; in fact, they had incessantly and a tad bit, obsessively worked towards this very goal for twenty-two years now. Others, however, were in shock they had even made it this far. I’m sure that still many of them had not envisioned this finale, this outcome, for themselves. Maybe it was not the university they had meant to attend, or not the major that had wanted to pursue. Nevertheless, there they all sat adorned in matching caps and gowns; bright white excited smiles contrasting perfectly with the black, billowing robes. The painful memories of whatever hardships, hindrances, and difficulties they had had in the past, now were suppressed with deliriously ecstatic dreams of the future. They had made it this far, only to get to this moment. Now it was time to start all over again.
I believe that adversity makes a person stronger – a that-which-does-not-kill-me-only-makes-me-stronger state of mind. If everything were perfect, we would never change; quite simply, there would be no reason to shake things up. I believe we are more than the summation of our individual parts; we are more than that setback that rattled our confidence, more than any other fallacy we may see in ourselves. Furthermore, I believe that we transcend every one of these shortcomings and insecurities to do the best we can with what we have. Ultimately, I believe in the importance of the “big picture.” The fact that we may take the harrowing, twisted path to realize that goal is negligible; when we see our shining faces reflecting in the glory of our achievement, it is all worth it. Yet I believe the details that fill in that “big picture,” make up what is commonly referred to as life.
A photo I took of his graduating class was the definition of a perfect picture. But I knew, as I pushed the button to eternalize that moment, those twenty-two years of living had provided the details to fill in the gaps of this particular picture, only to become part of what would be an endless stream of snapshots that would be their lives. The great Martin Luther King Jr. once said “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
In his words, I do believe.
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