Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Display of Emotion

We had graduation last night, and once again, I found myself wandering amongst crying and smiling students alike.  We had a mix of emotions - happiness, satisfaction, sadness, regret, fear, excitement - we ran the entire gamut.  We had students in the graduation band crying from letter T on.  We had some, graduates and grad band members both, who wandered around after the ceremony looking like they were completely in shock.  Others looked like they were at a wake or a funeral, some looked like they weren’t sure how to handle themselves (freshman), and others were just happy to comfort the others who were overcome with emotion.  It was all very touching.
After the kids began to disperse from their hug and cry fest, one of the administrators asked if everything was ok.  He didn’t understand the display of emotion and assumed something bad had happened.  We had to explain that this is how it was.  Band isn’t just playing an instrument and marching around on a football field.  It is so much more than that.  I am glad he witnessed the power music has to bring people together.
How can it not be family.
Last night’s mix of celebration and mourning reminded me that band is more than just a class.  It is more than a curriculum or a collection of TEKS.  Music brings people together on a level unmatched through sports, academics, or any other activity on campus.  These students have created a powerful bond over their four years together remarkably similar to family.
Maybe that is why so many of the students had such a visceral reaction to last night’s graduation.  For many of them, they were experiencing the feelings our parents feel when they drop us off at college the first time.  They are unsure how to say goodbye, or unsure if what they are saying is goodbye or just “until next time.”  While hugging and crying, they only know that this could be the last time they are in the same room as each other.  An age has past, a phase in their life has ended.
It is more than just hard work.
For the graduates, they stand on the edge of a precipice, unsure of what comes next.  I remember my high school graduation thirteen years ago.  I felt eager to be done, excited I was complete, but scared out of my mind about what came next.  The unknown is always more scary than familiar fears.  Our seniors were feeling that fear last night.  Those of us saying bye were their anchors, keeping them grounded and safe.  As soon as they crossed that stage and accepted their diploma, they were cut loose, and they feel adrift.  We all know they will find their way soon, but for a little while, they have to just know that safe waters are ahead.
One of the juniors asked me why I was smiling as I wandered amongst my kids, handing out hugs of my own.  She thought I was making fun of those who were crying.  I told her I was just happy for everyone.  It is rare to see as blatant an expression of love and caring as I was a part of, and I was happy to be there.  While I was sad that my seniors, who I love as much as I would my own children, are moving on, I couldn’t help but feel the love in the room, and it brought a smile to my face.
I am proud of every one of my seniors this year.  Each has traveled a different path to get to where they are, the lessons they have learned along the way are varied but equally powerful.  This special group of people has worked hard for their accolades.  Sometimes they worked for for us, sometimes against us, but in the end they learned something, regardless of the results.  They have been my teachers as well, enriching my life with more lessons than I could ever learn sitting in a classroom.  While many of them will never realize it, the course of my life has changed simply by sitting in the same room as them.  Some will go on to change the world, some will go on to be a part of it, and some will go on to learn that life can be hard.  I hope they all move forward with a smile, eager to find the good in the world.  No matter what, I will always be proud of them as the follow the path to finding themselves.  Being a fresh graduate is always exciting, I know they will make the best of it.

Frank Chambers
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