Years ago I described the fleeting nature of time as the black hole around which my whole life circles, the wound that is at the center of all my writing, all my feeling, all my living.  Certainly that seems to be borne out by what it is I write, over and over again.  At the very midpoint of the year, the sunniest, longest days, I find myself battling an encroaching sorrow, an irrefutable sense of farewell.  The proof is in my archives.

The world bursts into riotous bloom, almost as though it is showing off its fecundity.  The days are swollen and beautiful, the air soft, the flowering trees spectacular.  The children gleefully wear shorts to school, the sidewalks are dusted with pollen and petals, and we round the curve of another year.  We start counting down school days, we say goodbye to beloved babysitters who are graduating from college, and I find myself blinking back tears.

Every year, I’m pulled into the whitewater between beginnings and endings that defines this season.  I can barely breathe.

It’s all captured in the event that so many of us attend, year after year, at this time: commencement.  It was my own commencements that marked this season, for years: from grade school, high school, college, graduate school.  And then there was a time when, though I wasn’t personally attending commencements, I felt their presence, sensed the ebb and flow of the school year.  It seems that my spirit and the very blood in my veins will always throb to the cadence of the school year.  And now it is my children who commence, who close a year and begin another, wearing too-long hair and legs, vaguely tentative smiles, and white.

Commencement.  Isn’t this word simply a more elegant way of describing what might be the central preoccupation of my life?  You end and you begin, on the very same day.  You let go of something and while that I-am-falling feeling never goes away, you trust that you’ll land.  And you do, on the doorstep of another beginning, a new phase, the next thing.

No matter how many times I’m caught from the freefall of farewell by a new beginning, though, I still feel the loss.  As much as my head understands that endings are required for them to be beginnings, my heart mourns what is ending.  That a seam of sorrow runs through my every experience is undeniable; it may sound depressing, but I genuinely don’t experience it that way.  It is just part of how I’m wired, and it’s never closer to the surface than right now, as this school year winds down, as we celebrate the beginning that’s wrapped in the end, as we commence.

9 thoughts on “Commencement”

  1. I know sometimes you are concerned about expressing these things over and over, but I have to thank you. Each year this sadness grips me, and I feel misunderstood by my peers. The ending and beginning alike of the school year and the relentless passage of time make my heart ache.

    In eight days my boys will be home for the summer, and I treasure that, but it cannot come without admitting that the price of that freedom is that sixth grade and fourth grade are finished.

    I’ve founds it is better for me as well to admit that this is me– better not to resist but to stretch into the ache. May your heart be eased as well in these glorious hard days.

  2. Lindsey, I love your imagery in this post. I completely understand the seam of sorrow you speak of, and how it is not depressing, but often a thing of beauty.

  3. I love this. I am a teacher, so my years have always gone in school-year cycles. I always feel like we should do our new years resolutions now, or in the fall, it seems more natural. And with my daughter now ending Kindergarten I am realizing just how it brings sadness and excitement, ending and beginning all at once.

  4. My oldest is graduating high school in less than two weeks. I am surprised at how emotional I am over this. So I understand profound sadness at the end and the beginning. I feel scared for him. It’s so big. It’s so big he doesn’t even realize it. But I do.

  5. I love what you have written here because it perfectly describes so much of what I have been feeling. My life is in the midst of a huge change right now and I find myself frequently feeling the throes of two very different emotions: immense hope but also immense sadness.

    Everyone always says that when one door closes another door opens and during this time of he year that seems to be especially true as people transition into different parts of their lives. We can’t help but change just like the seasons. But with change always comes some sort of loss. And how can we not be effected by loss?

    The inner pessimist in me (and the romantic side of me) always has the hardest time dealing with loss. But the optimist in me always remembers that the future holds so much excitement and promise. It’s hard to just find balance between the bitter and the sweet when it comes to this time of year as I find myself re-visiting the idea of commencement and all that it entails.

  6. You and me both, friend. Tears are at the ready this time of year, always. We end and we begin. Indeed. (Especially poignant words for me right now. xoxo)

  7. I love the “seam of sorrow” phrase too. This is a beautiful post, Lindsey. I am reading Being Home A Book of Meditations by Gunilla Norris. As I was reading it last night, I began thinking, “Lindsey would love this.”

  8. I have lived my life by the school-year calendar for…always, it seems. Each year now, the ending catches me by surprise. Just this week, I looked up and realized that another year is almost done. The senior countdown in the hallway outside the library says “2” on it. How can that be? I’m still somewhere back in March. The school years just melt now. When I began teaching, they felt like a marathon I was running, and at this point in the year I wasn’t sure I could drag myself to the finish line. Now, the line rushes to me. I almost prefer the dragging.

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