Day 122 – A gift and armor

Someone asked a question today that got me thinking–What HS graduation/going to college gift would you recommend for a first-gen student?

The question took me back to my graduation day.

We had a party at the house after the ceremony. Family and friends to come over and eat sandwiches and potato salad and cake. I got an address book and stationary and a dozen cards with cash tucked inside.

I had no idea that day, but the best graduation gift I received was a brown leather portfolio.

It was a gift from one of my Mom’s coworkers. I remember opening it and thinking how professional it looked. I tucked it carefully into my bag and took it to college with me. I was afraid to carry it at first. I didn’t want to scuff it, ruin it. But after awhile, it went everywhere with me.

And as my college graduation approached, I would use it especially for interviews and important meetings. I feel silly admitting it, but carrying that portfolio was sort of like putting on armor. It gave me confidence. It helped keep that nagging Imposter Syndrome in check.

It’s nearing the end of its life, beginning to show signs of wear. But it has served me well, helped propel me forward. I’ve written thousands of pages of notes, earned degrees, negotiated contracts, attended conferences, received promotions.

Twenty years later, it’s sitting here on my desk.

365 Project – Day 237 – Stones in the Road

These past few weeks, I’ve been working on finishing up the photos from my first senior photo session with the daughter of one of my best friends.

It’s been something of a surreal experience to say the least.

See, I’ve known Katie since she was three, and I was just a high school student myself. It doesn’t seem quite possible that she will be graduating this year. I mean, I know I just celebrated a birthday, but that doesn’t mean that I actually believe that I’m 31. It’s one of those things that I tacitly acknowledged, yet it hasn’t quite sunk in just yet, you know?

See, time is a funny thing. When you’re a child, the days are endless. Hours tick by at a maddeningly slow pace. And it always seems like you’re waiting for something. Waiting to be older. Waiting to grow taller. Waiting for your next birthday. Waiting for Mom to give you permission to spend the night at your friend’s house. Waiting to be chosen for the team. Waiting to get your learner’s permit and your driver’s licence. Waiting to graduate. Waiting to leave home and go to college. Waiting for that 21st birthday to roll around so you can finally go to the bar and have your first legal drink. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

But then, something happens. Some night, while you’re sleeping, some unseen force hits the Fast Forward button on your life. Days and weeks and months begin to blur together. And, instead of waiting, you find yourself chasing time like you once had to chase the cross town bus, waving desperately and praying that the driver will see you and slow down. Birthdays and holidays sneak up and fly by faster than you can acknowledge them.

At the risk of sounding cliche, it really does seem like only yesterday that I was graduating myself. Maybe it was just all the time I spent working on Katie’s photos these past few weeks, but the past thirteen years really have flown by. It wasn’t so long ago that I was just a wide-eyed graduate, leaving everything and everyone I knew behind to hop a plane to New York to pursue my dreams. I felt like I had already come so far, and I had no idea all the things that were yet to come.

It has been a long road for me to get here to this moment, a road full of obstacles and stumbling blocks and steep uphill climbs, yet I honestly wouldn’t trade one step of it. There has been love and laughter, joy and heartache, absolute frustration and utter devastation. There have been moments that took my breath away, moments I’m not so proud of, moments I will never forget and plenty of mistakes made along the way, but in the end, the sum of it has only shaped me and made me stronger. Like a carefully crafted chunk of clay, I had to endure the fire or risk being irreparably broken.

I don’t believe in coincidence, nor do I believe that every event in our lives is carefully choreographed and set in stone. What I do believe is that we come to this Earth with some ultimate goal, and that we are presented with options and choices that can help us get there. The choices that we make in those moments ultimately shape our futures, and we must learn to choose wisely or suffer the consequences. Life tends to get confusing and chaotic when we stray too far from our paths, but one thing I have learned is that there are always signs and guideposts to help us get back to where we need to be, if only we pay attention. And I like to think that, these days, I am a whole lot better at paying attention.

Tonight’s 365 Project is dedicated to the roads we travel, and to the amazing people we encounter along the way.

KatieSeniorPics155

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