Monday, June 06, 2011

It's Graduation Time: A Time for Looking Ahead & A Time for Looking Back

I'm writing this on June 6, 2011. Many years ago on another June 6th (I'll spare you the year) I graduated from Badger High School in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. My grandparents came from Ohio to sit in a very hot and sticky gym and watch me walk across the stage. At the end of the ceremony, we grads moved our tassels from one side of our caps to the other. I can't remember which side you start on and which you end, but I remember the feeling that with that act, my childhood was truly ending.

After most of us had escaped the hugs and slobbery kisses from our moms and grandmas, we converged at the Rivera (the building that figures prominently in my yet-to-be-published novel currently titled Dream and Little Dream of Me) and boarded one of the large excursion boats that ply the lake during summer. It was a unique way to celebrate and one most appropriate, since the lake and the boats figured greatly in my growing up years.

To me that night was bittersweet. Like any kid that age, I was anxious to get on in life, and ready to take on the world. But, my senior year had been a difficult one for me socially, and that figured strongly in my eagerness to get out of Dodge. To that end, I was set to attend a state college a half-hour's drive away, but  I'd never admit to anyone that I was scared. Scared because I didn't think I had the chops to make it in college, but also scared not to give it the "old college try"  because I didn't want to be different from my friends. To me waiting wasn't an option.

I was right. I didn't make it. Truth was, I had no business going on to college until I matured a couple more years. Staying at home and working and saving for school would have been a much better choice for me.

So home I came, and the next year found me working at a local bank and saving money to return to school to learn some office skills. The academic track I'd been on during high school did me no good in the real world without that diploma.

Fast forward about ten years and two cross-country moves later, I was working in an office, using those skills I learned at secretary school. At my roommate's urging, I finally ventured back into a college classroom, taking a course here and there. I actually received A's! Funny what ten years of maturing will do. Fast forward another couple decades and another cross-country move back to the Midwest. There, on a May morning, with my proud papa sitting in the audience, I received my Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree.

I may have accomplished the degree much faster, had I made a different choice years earlier. But, between the time I would have graduated from college and when I finally did get that degree, a lot had changed in my life. Most of all, God came into it in a huge way. By the time I got serious about school, I knew that through Christ I can do all things, and He gives me the strength to face all conditions. Through the accelerated adult program I was in,  I learned that He had gifted me to write, quite possibly for publication.

Would I have figured out the writing angle if I'd done college way back when? Maybe. But I might have pursued a far different direction with how to use my writing ability. From the beginning of this endeavor I have always sought to give God the glory for the gift and the inspiration, because He truly is the source of who I am and what I am to become.

If someone had told me that warm June night as I was handed my diploma in it's red leatherette case, that on that same date many years later I'd be writing fiction stories for others to read, I'd have laughed, thinking no way. But my ways aren't His ways and He had a plan for me that I would never have believed if I hadn't experienced it for myself.

This is true for all of us. All we need to do is turn to God and say where You lead I will follow.

1 comment:

Jane Steen said...

Pam, this is such a timely post for me! For one thing, my youngest daughter just graduated high school, and is headed to college - my oldest is in special ed., so this is a first for me. So I'm wondering how she'll do, even though I have the comfort of knowing she's a short drive from home!

And on the other hand, I too was one of those people who opted out of college when I left school - because I didn't know what I wanted to do, and because I was more tempted by a two-year course that was all in French. So I ended up doing my undergrad degree, and then my master's, while I was working/raising kids, and on my own dollar. And like you, I found I was a much better student because of the intervening years working and experiencing the real world.

And now I'm writing fiction, which is something I always dreamed of doing but dismissed as impractical. When I look back and see what God has done with my life, I'm always amazed - it's not even remotely like I'd imagined it, and yet in some ways it is more than I ever dreamed.