Life is a long series of graduations

Editor’s note: Janet Taber, who lives on a farm in Almartha in northern Ozark County with husband Stan, wrote this piece last week referencing her grandson Wyatt Alms, who graduated from Gainesville High School on May 19. 


Early this morning, the wranglers on our place were hard at work before the fog had all burned off getting up cattle to work today. 

Because he finished up his last official day of school last Thursday, our grandson Wyatt provided some much-needed extra help. And it was a good thing, because where they were working is one of the more rugged places on our farm with lots of draws, patches of woods and rocky outcroppings. 

There are opportunities for cattle to hide if they don’t want to be caught, and - generally speaking - cattle don’t want to be caught. More help this morning was definitely a good thing.

It turned out to be a good thing for me too, because once the cattle were gathered and brought in to the corral, I got a phone call from said grandson. 

“Mimi,” he said, “are you home?” Translation: “Mimi, could you fix me something to eat?”

Of course, Mimi could and did. The bonus to breakfast was that we had a little time to talk, something that nourished my soul just like the ham and egg sandwich nourished his body. 

Wyatt graduates from high school Friday night, and I had been wanting to ask him how he was feeling about the finishing of one era, the prospects of the new one and how he is handling all the changes. He seemed comfortable sitting, talking and reflecting, and since we talked, I’ve been reflecting too.

It's a big step to graduate from high school, but from my vantage point, life is a long series of graduations. We don’t always call them that, but we could. Consider these: we graduate from single status to married and then probably to parenthood; from a houseful of young people to an empty nest; from decades of working every day to retirement; from marriage to being single again, by way of divorce or widowhood; from being the “child” of one’s own parents to becoming the “parent” to one’s own parents; from being healthy to being incapacitated; from youth to old age, from inexperience to over-experience.

We don’t celebrate these graduations with parties, caps and gowns and pomp and circumstance, but they mark dramatic changes in our lives regardless of what we call them.

Coping with change is one of life’s big lessons, and people who successfully cope with change are the happy ones, I think. 

As I told my grandson this morning, nothing is guaranteed in life; just when you think you have gotten to a place you like (you’ve figured out how to do your job, how to handle a two-year-old or how to handle and even enjoy that empty nest), there is often a change just around the corner - the job ends, the two-year-old turns three, the college graduate moves home “just for a little while.”

It sometimes takes us by surprise, and sometimes we know the change is coming; either way, we are better in the long run to accept and adjust. That has never been one of my strengths, but I’ve found that if I accept sooner rather than later, I’m happier.

Another thing I have found that helps - besides acceptance - is to embrace change happily, if possible. 

My grandson and I talked about the silver linings that often show up after a particularly challenging time in life. The trick, I told him, is to look for them.

Beautiful byproducts of unsettling, unhappy “graduations,” are there for those who recognize them, almost always. It’s a matter of really seeing the big picture. If we’re focused on the negatives, on not wanting the change, our energy goes to that, and we might be missing a big, big blessing. 

Hindsight is really good vision, and I’m here to tell him and to tell anyone who will listen that this is true.

Resisting change can result in baggage: resentment, unforgiveness, sadness, dissatisfaction, grief, bitterness. The energy that it takes to carry around that sort of heavy baggage is enormous, and it precludes finding the silver linings. It’s the greatest feeling of freedom and lightness to put it down, forever. Just choose to drop it, whatever that load is. Those feelings are sometimes normal, but it is abnormal to hold onto them to the detriment of moving forward. I told my grandson that too. 

 I’ve always heard that the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one and to focus on practicing it. In place of the heavy baggage of negatives I mentioned in the last paragraph, pick up some  positives: choosing to see the good, choosing to find that silver lining, seeking ways to be happy, seeing challenges as growth opportunities rather than overwhelming obstacles. 

I am graduating this week, too. Everyone who has someone graduating from high school Friday night is facing a change: parents, grandparents, siblings, friends. 

For all of us, the task is to face the future with hope, not fear; with courage, not dread; and with the knowledge that this is one more change in a lifetime of changes. Nothing is static, and trying to hang on to the past doesn’t work. 

That old and ancient rallying cry is still best: Onward and upward!

Ozark County Times

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