After 25 years and 3 graduation/commencement ceremonies, I finally understand what it’s all for.

It wasn’t until yesterday evening, when my brother came up to hug me from behind, that I finally understood it. I always stress so much about graduation ceremonies. I imagine it’s the introvert part of me (though I recently took an online test and I got that I was an ENFP! Gasp!) that feels that social anxiety. I would’ve been content to quietly receive my degree in the mail and never go through any formal recognition process. I would’ve been happy to know I had graduated and move on with my everyday life. I would’ve been fine trying to figure out next steps, planning trips, applying for jobs, and just figuring out what to do with my life. But I would’ve completed missed the point of graduation.

A few days ago, I wrote about my fear of disappointing people. It’s a constant fear I have and it’s especially prevalent when I feel like I’ve failed in some way. It stems from self-doubt, not any actual disappointment I’ve perceived from family and friends. But it also stems from a deep-seated arrogance and self-absorption, so that when I think I’m unable to maintain the charade of accomplishment – when I’ve finally been found out as an impostor – I assume that everyone can see me as I am: an emperor without her clothes.

But I realized yesterday that, in fact, I’m not a naked emperor. I’m not walking through life attempting to convince everyone that I’m clothed in splendid garments. I’m the opposite. I’m the dream you have where you’re naked in front of an auditorium of people. My nudity isn’t real, I’m just convinced of it at any given moment.

I’m realizing that I’m actually clothed with the love and acceptance of my family and friends. And that’s what graduation is for. It’s so that they can see you be the person they know you always could be. It’s so they can acknowledge your accomplishments and celebrate them with you. It’s so they can keep adding on layers and layers of splendid garments.

I’m turning 25 tomorrow, an accomplishment (can I really call it that though?) I’ve felt ambivalent about over the past few weeks (I was just at a party talking to a friend about being single and 25 and unsure of life and living in NYC). And I’m glad I had this epiphany before I made it to a quarter-century. Because that’s the knowledge I want to take into the next quarter-century, if God lets me make it there. My family (and friends) are my constant reminders of God’s love for me. And sometimes it takes a graduation celebration to remember that.


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