My baby girl graduated from college last weekend. What is it about the passage of time that seems like it’s moving faster and faster? I feel like I’m living in a continuous loop of ’what just happened?’
“Pomp And Circumstance” — it’s that song they play at graduation ceremonies as the graduates march in. Or out. ( click for a sample) Just the anticipation of it was making me weepy. Talk about a song having it’s way with you.
But you know what? I was looking forward to hearing it. A moving piece always helps me feel the feels I need to feel to get through. If I don’t allow myself the feels, then I can get emotionally constipated. 😳
I’ve enjoyed jogging around the Georgetown University campus since my daughter started school here in 2015 — observing care-free student culture, wishing I’d appreciated my own college experience more while it was happening. The last 4 years are running through my mind like a montage — from the first week we dropped Layla off — fighting her fear of transition — until now — all packed up and ready to push off — fighting the fear all over again. Bookends.
This will surely be my last run around campus. Ahh, there’s the exact spot I left her during freshman orientation week. She fell into line with all the other newbies. From a distance I could see her lips moving. I knew she was saying “Hi I’m Layla. I’m from L.A.” She was being friendly and brave. But I knew she was crumbling inside. So was I.
Freshman year is tough. Sophomore year is always easier. They acclimate. They get happy. They make friends. Find their groove.
Junior year they go abroad. Travel is mind expanding. Confidence inflating. I missed her more because of the extra distance. FaceTime sustained me.
Billy Joel’s “These Days” streams through my AirPods as I run past the athletic field. I used to perform that song on the piano bar circuit. I wonder what the Gen Z’s version of “These Days” is. There’s plenty of hits on the radio celebrating youth but not so many about time flying. Maybe young people don’t concern themselves with such silly matters because well, they’re young.
But Billy was pretty young when he wrote that song.
A few months ago when Adam and I visited on Senior Weekend we wondered who all the old couples were walking around with mini-me’s. OMG. They are us! The parents! Are we that old? Yes we are!
I run past the blue ‘Emergency’ pole which I’m grateful my daughter never had to use. Oh and that must be a High School tour — all wide-eyed and excited — their adventure still ahead of them. Wasn’t that us just yesterday?
Layla blossomed at school. She got great grades. She held down a job. She found her artistry. She became one of those campus tour guides who walks backwards and manages not to trip over anything or anyone.
And now that she’s finally mastered her groove … poof. NEXT! New job, new city, new friends, new weather. No matter how wonderful the future is about to be, she’s separating from the many meaningful relationships she once couldn’t imagine she’d find and starting to realize just how fleeting and magical those 4 years were — living a charmed life with her “friend group” on their own private planet. Planet College. What could be better?
My father loved the song “Sunrise Sunset.” He’d sing it to me with this glaze in his eyes. It made me feel uncomfortable. ‘God Daddy, you’re so embarrassing.’ But teenagers can’t possibly comprehend the depth of that song even when they sing it in their High School musical. Then one day they grow up and their own kid walks down an aisle and they understand the glaze that was in their father’s eyes.
Adam and I are aware that graduation weekend isn’t about us. But you know, it’s a rite of passage and the end of a chapter for us as well. Perhaps there should be an emergency pole on campus for parents too. I could have used one.
Finally, at the ceremony itself, I wore waterproof mascara and clung to a Kleenex packet waiting for “Pomp And Circumstance” to begin. The graduates filed in. Waiting. Waiting. Commencement speaker, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (one of Layla’s favorites!), talked eloquently about pacing our worry and enjoying our happiness while we’re happy. She also suggested we put down our phones more often (while the woman sitting next to me Instagrammed her way through the entire ceremony!) I’m waiting for the song. Bracing myself for the song. Where is the song? The graduates filed out.
They never played “Pomp And Circumstance.” Honestly, I felt a little ripped off! How will I feel the feels?
Actually, it wasn’t that difficult. Seeing my daughter and her friends sobbing through good-byes pretty much did the trick. My heart was breaking as she drove away with her Dad in a UHAUL…heading for 95N and her new mystery life.
But I won’t be sad for long because she won’t be either. Like all other transitions, she’ll make new friends. Keep the old. Make new memories. Never lose the ones she already has. Wake up to another sunrise. Forge a new journey.
I know it will be alright. Her light will guide the way. It always does.
Good luck to the Class of 2019! Go forth and prosper.