I am nostalgic and emotional and basically choked up. A great song will bring me to tears today. And yesterday. And the day before.
This weekend was Graduation.
Not mine – in fact I didn’t even attend my own, way back in the 80’s from my ghetto fabulous highschool. There just wasn’t that feeling of closeness as a whole class. There were cliques and segments, and like the street gangs of L.A. we moved through the halls of the windowless day prison, carefully eyeing the enemy. The uncool, the rockers, the ‘Enriched Program’ brainiac geeks, the Punjabis with the knives in their socks. There were the mysterious smokers who hung out at the back of the school, all pencil thin in jean jackets and Farah Fawcett hair – both the guys and the girls. There were the unwritten rules of segregation in the cafeteria and the danger of being in the wrong locker bay at the wrong time. It was a rough and tough school and no one really shed a tear at leaving.
On the last day of classes we all walked down the tree lined suburban side streets to the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong ‘ side of the main road – the classist line that divided the properties and caused further divergence among the students. We never looked back. We were grateful it was over and none of us had a united future, or common goals to look forward to. We passed the grade and did our time and it was over.
This scenario could not be further from the reality of the kids we watched through their Graduation ceremonies this weekend. My tears were brought on firstly by the reality that I’ll be losing a surrogate son – surrendering an amazing child to adulthood and the big world.
But what struck me during the numerous events arranged around the Graduation, was the amazing comraderie and sense of purpose among a class of 50. All alive and vibrant and determined. All of them convinced they will be great. None of them weighed down by the soul sucking weight of reality. None of them obsessed about themselves in that negative, self loathing way that is exhibited in the attitude of so many teenagers in the west today. The class has been together like a force, a swarm, for years. The friendships developed will span their lifetimes and have etched memories into each other forever.
All of these kids are forced upon each other, all taken from the comfort zones of their own cultures and dumped into a mixing pot called an International School, while their fathers do the daily grind with infinite frustrations and their mothers try to find women’s groups for tea and oversee the servants and try not to lose their grip on reality.
They come from everywhere – Denmark, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Korea, America, Australia, South Africa ... the world.
Still, what comes out of this experiment in education abroad is an amazing self esteem and sense of purpose the children gain. They are privileged but not spoiled, they travel the world and they are responsible. They are tolerant and open minded and they see the world far beyond country borders. They become leaders from within.
So at the graduation ceremony there are hundreds of photos and speeches and hugs and tears and the sentiment is real and the kids are all headed somewhere with purpose. But will definitely miss where they’ve been.
And the parties afterwards are shared with parents and families and everyone has fun. No one is too cool to dance with their mother, too bored to talk to their uncle, joke with their teachers, enjoy the love that surrounds them.
And the songs that serenaded the kids as they threw up their caps, and at the parties later will hold memories for all of us, and remind us that it is possible to have a positive outlook and have pride in the generation that we are raising. And years down the road I will undoubtedly be driving along and hear the song that pulsated, “My dream is to fly over the rainbow so high”, and I will see in my memory’s eye, the crowded dancefloor and the jumping bodies, all excited and hopeful and alive, and I will get all choked up and nostalgic and remember this graduation as if it were my own.