Graduation Cards

Some dreams live on in time, forever.”

— Gloria Estefan

They’re on the shelves of just about every supermarket and grocery store right now.

They’re stacked in neat little rows, categorized by relationship or level of humor, waiting to be plucked up and read by a passer-by looking for that perfect message. Maybe it’s for a friend. Maybe it’s for a family member.

Maybe, if that passer-by is like me, it’s just for a little inspiration.

Why do I love high school graduation cards so much? Why do I look forward to the month of June every year, sifting through those endless piles, scouring every word — even the years when I don’t know anyone graduating? (though with my huge family, this circumstance doesn’t come about very often).

It all started ten years ago — my high school graduation.

I had a lot to be proud of then. I’d graduated in the top of my class, maintaining a high GPA in advanced courses, all the while enduring some pretty tough circumstances at home. Now, I was about to head off to my dream school, somewhere I’d chosen, and somewhere that would surely be more exciting than the place I’d been for the past eighteen years.

For these reasons, reading phrases like “The future is a rainbow of bright tomorrows” or “The journey of a million miles begins with one step,” (Lau Tzu) sent goose bumps crawling over my skin. I also couldn’t get enough of the messages that concentrated on using the past as a catalyst for the future: “Only experience can teach us the fine balance of courage and caution” or “It’s not the mountains we must conquer, but ourselves” (Edmund Hillary).

That was me. I’d learned as much as I could, I’d “conquered” myself, and I was ready to take on the college world.

I saved all of those graduation cards. I’d always been a quote hound, hanging pictures in my room with little tidbits of wisdom. To that end, I’d also been a packrat when it came to memorabilia, so it seemed only natural to keep the huge stack of cardboard around.

It’s a little different to go back and read them ten years later.

“It’s not the mountains we must conquer, but ourselves.”

When I read that front cover as a recent high school graduate, I nodded my head confidently. Now, I realize, I had no idea what it even meant…. and it makes me appreciate the words that much more.

I had no idea then how the next four years of my life would challenge me — much more than the previous ones: the homesickness, the paralyzing fear of the unknown and being out on my own. I also had no idea what it entailed to truly conquer those feelings of weakness. Not just to go to my dream school, not just to get there, but to stay there… and thrive.

Graduation cards remind me of that journey I took. More importantly, they remind me of all the pieces of that journey: dreaming and setting a goal for yourself. Putting your mind to something and working towards it. They remind me of that power of perseverance; overcoming doubts and setbacks.

They remind me to expect the unexpected — both the challenges, and the rewards.

It’s nice to have that reminder at least once a year. In the midst of a long day or week or busy month, when I’m struggling to “conquer” the load in front of me, it’s nice to remember that my future is wide open, that life isn’t always what I plan on (good or bad), and that no matter how big the obstacle, I’ll find a way to get through it.

Do you find reading quotes inspiring? What are some of your favorites? Here’s mine from a card that I actually received twice, at both my high school and college graduation — I guess my friends and family knew how much I could relate to it.

“There is an inner beauty about a woman who believes in herself, who knows she is capable of anything she puts her mind to. There is a beauty in the strength and determination of a woman who follows her own path, who isn’t thrown off by obstacles alone the way. There is a beauty about a woman whose confidence comes from experience, who knows she can fall, pick herself up, and go on.”

–Gemma Ynez

PS: All this talk about graduation and graduation cards has also reminded me of what Sky Blue Mission is all about. Stay tuned for posts over the next few weeks describing some of my goals with the mission, and why I think those goals are so important.

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