I had no idea how I would feel this morning, as the dawn light crept over town on the day my son would leave high school behind for good.
I gave up my ritual 6 a.m. sandwich making two weeks ago, when the last school bus pulled away from the stop en route to Riverhead High School, with my graduating senior on board, all bleary-eyed and hurting from having his wisdom teeth yanked out the night before.
I thought it would be difficult to give up that sandwich shuffle, the rote routine of the mayonnaise-less sandwich, the Gatorade and carrot sticks, the sweet whatever, which was usually the only thing that didn’t come back home in that lunch bag at the end of the day. But it hasn’t been difficult at all.
I thought there would be a pit in my stomach, because there was a pit in my stomach every time I had ever walked down the aisle en route to pick up another degree: Was I worthy of this diploma? How on earth would I pay for it? Would I do anything with it? Was it worth the effort? Sometimes, I just don’t know.
But my son doesn’t seem to feel any of that. He dropped his backpack home last week and went right to work at his first real job. Every time I see that darn kid, he has a huge smile on his face, because he’s finally doing exactly what he wants to do with his life. I’m still a little bit shocked.
I thought I would be anchorless, directionless, wondering what purpose I have left now that my only child has left the nest. But that just hasn’t happened. Yet.
I thought I would feel a sense of dread for what these kids who are graduating today are going to face: A lifetime of service industry jobs? Enormous debt? Ten years of unpaid internships? Climate change? War?
The truth is, they might just be facing all those things. But right now, for today, they’re just picking up that diploma, wiping the slate clean, and writing their own stories, not the ones we had written out for them.
And that’s the way it should be.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014. You guys are going to make a lot out of your lives. I’m sure of it.