Sometimes walking across a stage takes great gumption. Not because the act of ambulation is challenging (though wearing layers and layers of velvet is a bit inhibiting). The challenge comes in the difficulty of expecting one jaunt across a stage to summarize years of work. We whittle down an entire degree to ten seconds of glory where one’s name is read, a tassel shifted, a hood donned, and a handshake of confirmation offered. It’d odd how we shove hundreds of graduates together to celebrate accomplishments individually and collectively. There is a sense of conclusion and accomplishment, and also a strange juxtaposition of both completion and new beginnings.
I would say that strange juxtaposition was a great summary of my commencement last weekend actually! It was a weekend chocked-full of activities and events. I disseminated my research full of beautiful quotes from hurting families, and shared how I worked and struggled to gain enough data to make my research meaningful. I received a special award and honor from my professors, but celebrated with strangers as everyone else honored was from another program. I was asked to give a speech and represent the graduating doctoral class. I was honored to share about my work and research. But as I said this line, “Healthcare is challenging because we live and work in the great chasm between hope and loss.” music began thumping across the hotel hall exclaiming all hearers to “Celebrate good times, c’mon!” I was so frustrated at this moment because I had worked hard to craft a speech I could be proud of and I felt like the audience missed what I was trying to communicate because of the noisy, boisterous environment.
Odd juxtapositions abounded.
But that is life! There will always be things to reflect upon, celebrate, and that make me smile. And things that are imperfect, challenging, odd, and disheartening. Rarely does a situation encompass just one emotion! This side of Heaven, there will always be joy for what was in one hand and grief for what wasn’t, or what could have been, in the other. Joy and sadness coexist, even on good days. Working fifteen years in healthcare has taught me that! Trudging through graduates degrees has taught me that. Being in relationship with others has taught me that.
In the midst of the oddities, I am so thankful. Thankful for family and friends who journeyed from afar to celebrate me and with me. I am thankful for a sense of completion and closure gained throughout the ceremonies. And I”m thankful for the chance to share data that I believe is meaningful and can change the way we interact with the families of hospitalized kids who are hurting.
So, perhaps my speech debacle was not as odd or frustrating as I initially thought. There is a deep chasm between hope and loss. I struggle. In fact, struggle is part of the story for all of us. God uses struggle, challenge, and long, winding journeys to sanctify. But there is also always something to celebrate. Whether it be growth, grace, or gumption, I can energetically sing, “Celebrate good times, c’mon!”