We received the grad photos today for my son’s graduation from University.
We attended the graduation ceremony a few weeks ago. As I sat in the audience, full of pride and nostalgia, my mind reflected on our journey as a family to this point and then to thoughts of every graduate in the ceremony. Each graduate has their story, their journey, their moments of struggle and triumph.
We have two kids – both Queen’s graduates now, and yet so different. This one felt like the graduation that wouldn’t be. This kid – intelligent, wise, independent, and personable. And yet, challenging, stubborn, and sullen at times. This one never enjoyed school, worked since the age of 14 and wondered what he would learn from formal education that would be better than what he was learning on the job. And he was committed to his own path.
In second year of University, he announced at our family Christmas dinner that he planned to stop going to school. It didn’t go over well. After several hours, many words, and some tears (mine, not his), we came to an agreement that he would continue school if he could tell everyone he was only doing it for his mom.
I didn’t care what he told people as long as he continued. I knew he could find jobs and thought he might even be fine without the degree, but I didn’t want him to regret the choice. And with this child, I knew a break from school would probably result in him never returning.
He continued with school. He stayed connected to his family. He kept working at a job he loved – to balance with the school he didn’t. He persevered. We traveled over these 4 tough years, him to us, us to him, and many lunches and dinners where we met halfway. Once a month, we checked in physically to see him. My style is to see the kid to understand the kid. It’s easy to hide things from your mom when you just text or call, but the face tells the story.
Other parents gave me advice to let him do what he wants and said he’d make the right choices. It didn’t feel right so we took our chances. We pushed when required and stepped back to give breathing room.
This child of mine…
– could have graduated in the ceremony in June but didn’t file the paperwork in time
– could have had his photo in the school yearbook, but had the session 2 days before the grad ceremony
– forgot we were having family Thanksgiving dinner the night before the ceremony, but changed his plans to join us anyway
– sent me a picture in line with his robe on so I wouldn’t worry that he would be late
– posed with his sister, and his girlfriend, and parents and smiled for his photos in front of the school landmarks, all without a complaint
So dedicated and focused at work. So loving and caring to his family as he has matured over the years.
It’s been a long and winding road to this graduation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s to all the graduates. And all the parents. And grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, professors, and school counselers who helped them on their individual journeys.
Bask in the success. You’ve all earned it.
The night before grad when I was teasing him about the time he told us he was quitting school, he said with a twinkle in his eye – “funny, I don’t remember that”. I responded with an equally light tone “Oh, yes, must have been someone else.”
I recently took a vacation in the western provinces of Canada that included 11 days on a motorcycle. This was a first for me and I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.
Two Harley motorcycles, two couples, many mountain ranges, large lakes and rivers and the Pacific Ocean, and countless twisties. Roads that allow the rider to enjoy, curving, swaying, following the natural landscape, with the beautiful views ever present.
The road, my thoughts, and hours of enjoyment – about 77 hours of riding in fact – and this phrase popped into my head: “tethered by trust”.
When two bikes ride together tethered by trust, the riding is an experience like poetry, like a symphony, like a well-oiled machine. There is an unspoken language that is learned through experience that enables joy and safety, leading and sharing, and pure exhilaration.
It reminded me of leadership in work and personal experiences. When common goals, experience to execute, and trust exists, words are often unnecessary. We know where we’re going, we have the right skills, and people trust me to both lead and pass the reins at the appropriate moments. Lead when I’m needed, pass the reins to others either for a break or allow them to grow, or to recognize areas of strength that I may not have.
A Harley motorcycle, an open road, and a few hand signals that are universally known by experienced riders. And don’t forget the dropped-arm-low-key-wave when you see a fellow biker.
Tethered by trust. Leadership indeed.
Women in Tech…
Have you ever been on vacation and pondered a job change? I have taken a vacation several times in my life to consider a job change, or a job offer, and also to take stock of what I want to do.
I laughed as I saw this sign today and thought to myself, well that’s a different kind of job.
So if you’re thinking of a job change and want something really different from a life in Tech – I can hook you up with an opportunity in Washington state. It’s not clear if the cottage is available for accommodations, but I bet you could negotiate!
My brain needs space to think.
Sometimes that space is just a quiet room, or an uninterrupted moment with eyes closed, or a walk around the block.
When I was young and something became too much – usually involving two siblings mad at each other – my Gram would say “go run around the house”. A wise women she was. The run around the house bought her time away from the quarrel, but also distracted us kids from whatever big issue was going on. (You took my cookie, stop looking at me, etc.)
Space. It allows my brain to think, and reflect, and gain perspective.
I am currently on a vacation like no other I have taken. 11 days of riding a motorcycle in Western Canada and the U.S. with a loose agenda and many miles to travel. One city to the next, mountains everywhere I look, rushing water, dried up rivers, glaciers melting, forests thriving and forests burned, different cultures everywhere we land for lunch and the night, … and space.
I remember this quote from my school days and always loved it. Now I am feeling it…
“Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.” “That,” I said, “is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go.” “It is all room away from the pavements. […]”
— Josiah Bushnell Grinnell 
I am fortunate and I believe I live a blessed life. A key part of enjoying that is also stepping out of it to reflect, and taking that time, and space to think. What better way to do that than to go west, young man, go west!