Category Archives: Education

Equinox

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Equinox by Comfreak via Pixabay

Last Friday was the autumn equinox. Summer has officially changed to fall, my favorite season of the year. Lots of great things happen that give me so much joy every fall. Anniversaries, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving. Harvest, changing leaves, crisp air and pumpkins. The change begins in September. For me while I was raising my children and now as an advisor working in academia, September has always been the beginning of the new year, not January. Getting ready for fall means new school supplies, new clothes, a fresh start. A new beginning. The equinox signals the change.

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Tree of Change via Pixabay

This fall feels different. This September the world has seen three major hurricanes, two considered the largest in a century. Islands have changed, coastlines have changed, lives have changed beyond repair. This September has had two devastating earthquakes, hundreds killed and displaced. Monsoons and tornadoes. Flooding. Massive forest fires that burned for months clouded the air in September. This equinox it is clear that Mother Earth is pissed.  She made the required change from summer to fall but her fury seems slow to abate. The same can be said for human anger. Swords are rattling and there is great division as politics permeates every facet of life and not in a good way.

We live near major military bases, Air Force, Navy, Army and submarine. There has been a lot of activity these past few months, a sense of preparation. One night a loud hum that turned into something dark and ominous passed over my home. Something massive moved low and slow overhead, a feat of engineering, a sound that generated fear and unease, a disturbance in the force. Is this how our parents felt in the years before the great war? The uncertainty in the air, the rhetoric, the falseness of promises. The taunts of tyrants, the drums of war. There are major policy changes and vehement disagreements at every level and definitely a few steps backward. The constant deflection of attention by our leaders is giving me whiplash. There is a love of chaos and the blurring of lines. Sometimes it feels like a fight for the very soul of this country.

George Harrison famously sang “All things must pass” and if anything can save us, that sentiment surely will. I play my music loud to try to drown out the dissent. The equinox signals the seasons have transitioned and we are now on the other side of the next step. But how have we changed in the process? Webster’s dictionary defines equinox as the time of year when daytime and nighttime are equal in length. It certainly feels like that right now. There is such polarization that life in this country feels very black and white. For or against. Good or evil. Night or day.

So, yes, it has been a unique September. It is the first September we did not have our Mom here to celebrate her birthday. This September has dark things coming out of the shadows and discourse seems alive wherever one looks. Yet there is the other side, that equal balance of the equinox. This September has shone a light on heroes and heroines of many colors, genders, backgrounds and creeds. There has been thousands willing to stand, to kneel or to lay down in the face of injustice. There is hope and strength and so much courage. There is the opportunity to change the narrative, a chance to do something different now that the sun has crossed the equator.

Despite the dark days and the muted nights, life marches on. The college started classes this week, a whole new group of students with hopes and dreams and new clothes and school supplies beginning their education to explore and fulfill their life’s purpose. The devastating natural disasters have paradoxically brought out the best of humanity. In the face of that fury there is no color, creed or gender. There’s just people in need of each other. Why does it take these extreme measures to make us realize how alike we all really are? How fragile we are? How strong we are? That our blood is the exact same color and texture. That all of our brain matter is grey. That our lungs move in and out in harmony. That we all laugh and cry and love and struggle. We all have hopes and dreams. Life is not black or white. It’s a rainbow created by the sun shining through raindrops. Out of the mud comes the lotus. This too shall pass just as the equinox slowly changes the balance of the sun’s trajectory.  The equinox has made the transition and we are on the other side. Which road will we take into autumn?

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Silhouette by Geralt via Pixabay

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Graduation Day

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June is the month to celebrate graduation. Young adults in their late teens and early twenties are finishing their education in high school or college and Commencement Ceremonies are happening across the nation. Caps and gowns in a rainbow of colors are worn by students, faculty and staff don gowns and wild headgear that represents their various degrees and march with banners and poles in an age old ritual that could rival those of the mythical, magical school of Hogwarts. The strains of Pomp and Circumstance reverberate in the meeting halls  and open arenas in every city and town. It’s Graduation Day.

Two years ago on a windy Saturday, my youngest child, my daughter graduated from college. Her brother had walked in his own college ceremony five years earlier. The emotion this ritual evokes cannot be minimized. We are proud, so very proud, we are hopeful, we are gratified, we are relieved. We have given our children the opportunity to achieve that which can never be taken from them and they have risen to the challenge. The flowers, the balloons, the gifts, the parties are all expressions of our collective gratitude in that august piece of paper. Our children have earned a college degree.

I have worked in a community college as an academic advisor for over 14 years and yesterday was graduation day. I have always loved this day, have always been a fan of pomp and ceremony, of dressing up in ceremonial gowns (although not so much of a fan of the mortarboard caps!) and of celebrating this special day with my students. I am fortunate that the population I work with are also graduating from high school and are still young and idealistic. Although many have experienced adversity beyond their tender years, they have their whole lives ahead of them.

What stands out more for me on this day are the other students that comprise a community college population. Adults who have overcome addictions or homelessness to earn a degree that will lead them to a different life. Students from broken homes. Students who dropped out of high school at an early age and then returned to finish that diploma. Students who have committed crimes and have paid their time to society and are now clawing their way back to peace and respectability. Students who are children of immigrants or indeed immigrants themselves who have tried to navigate a foreign language and foreign customs to make a better life for themselves and their families.  Students who have come from violence, from loneliness, from neglect. Students who have studied in the late night after working a full time job then coming home to put their children to bed. So much need and support to get to this place. And yet, get there they did. The hope and happiness in the air at graduation ceremonies is palpable energy. The pride and joy of the students and their families. The utter relief to have gotten to this point.The huge smiles and fist pumps in the air as they walk across the stage.

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I was on that stage myself more than once. I hit the age of 35 with 2 small children and no marketable skills after a decade of pursuing my dream of an acting career.  I had a hard working husband but the fact remained that any circumstance of life could leave me the sole caretaker of these two young people and I was woefully unprepared. Going back to school was not an easy decision. I almost gave up after I met with an advisor and realized what a very long road I had in front of me. But that wise person changed my life. When I bemoaned that I would be in my mid forties before I finished my degree, he reminded me that I would most likely get to my mid forties anyway so why not have have the degree when I do get there. So I persevered. Perhaps I feel such an affinity to so many of those walking the stage yesterday because I was that mom doing homework late at night after I put my kids to bed. I was studying my note cards while sauteing meat for dinner. I was bookmarking my latest assignment so I could supervise the bath or read the bedtime story. But like those jubilant students yesterday, I was not alone. When I walked that stage 15 years ago, my children with there, my husband too. My brothers and sisters. My mom. Friends gathered at my home to celebrate with me. It really does take a village.

I am grateful that I can pay it forward as an advisor because that long ago advisor was right. I did make it to 45 and I had my degree. The joy I felt yesterday in watching my “kids” walk across that stage knowing that in some way I inspired them was lovely. The joy and pride I felt when my own two children walked across their respective stages knowing that I had supported them and maybe inspired them when they saw me do the same 15 years ago was priceless.

Graduations ceremonies are aptly called Commencement. I like that word. Rather than an ending, it suggests a beginning, a time to commence to the new phase of life, whatever that might be. Education is a gift to oneself that no one can ever take away from you. Happy Graduation to all those making that walk this month. That is something to celebrate.

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