Commencement for Metamorphs
Oh great, more advice from another austere, pretentious adult. Granted, while I, like everyone else, am still in the act of creating my life, this doesn’t mean a nugget of wisdom can’t be rendered from time to time. Speaking of nuggets, the other day, as I sat upon the throne of my morning ritual, perusing the good book of faces, I came across a quote that struck me as more profound than the poster would probably understand. Alden Nowlan put it like this: “The day a child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; [and] the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.” Now, as you forgive a subtly deposited poop joke, I’d like to ponder upon why forgiveness of oneself might be a catalyst to wisdom.
Expectation. Expectation is the bitter brother of Hope. The loose rock on a trail that despoils the firm footing of our grace. At some point, every parent will confuse the hope they feel for their children’s future for the expectations they prescribe for our course. They’ve had the time to ponder their life’s decisions, and they suspect they know the best path through the cacophony of adolescence. Consumed by their compassion for us, they loath to see pain that may have been prevented. They forget, sometimes, that the map is not the territory. The value that surviving painful experiences yields is immeasurable. As we grow and evaluate these less-than-happy happenings, we gain a certain skill that begins to prepare us for life’s unending challenges. That certain skill is:
Adaptability. Adaptability and self-reliance. We are destined to make our way through sets of challenges that are uniquely our own. How will we overcome if we only have external, archived advice to rely upon? We won’t. We’ll crash and we’ll burn. Likely, we’ll crash and burn regardless. Still, it is how we handle our recovery that dignifies us, and not the capacity to avoid turbulence. Unfortunately, a class in crash-and-burn recovery is not offered at your local community college. This is a skill we must teach ourselves. When a child recognizes that the responsibility for this education rests fully upon his or her shoulders, they become an adolescent. The reward we receive for our continuing perseverance is:
Confidence. Confidence is likely the greatest shield an adolescent can wield. This is a time when the protective egg that was the nurturing of our childhood breaks open and our true identities take their first timid steps into the world. This is a time so fresh and so primal. Feeling so exposed we can’t help but lash out with the meanest and rawest of our emotions in preemptive self-defense. Our exposure to the frightening fact that safety comes only in degrees of relativity leaves us vulnerable to the fears we had found trivial before. We become ravaged by reality and begin to see the invisible burdens the adults in our lives have seemed to manage with ease. This is an exciting time, and it hurts. We pick up our own invisible burdens and start down the road of our future, wondering if it will ever get easier.
Time. Time heals the scraped knees and injured pride of our adolescence. The burden tilts, shifts, and comes to rest with balance. We grow more comfortable with it and come to recognize the grace it takes to bare it with dignity. The strict catalogue society prescribes us for acceptable burden-bearing practices begins to lose its allure. We come to appreciate creative new ways of managing the added complexity our burdens afford us. We see how the mannerisms that seemed to characterize our parents, perhaps a tad annoying at the time, were really expressions of strength. We age. Less and less, we are surprised when we see our parents looking back at us when we glance into the mirror. Perhaps we even hold a bit of pride when we do. We begin to learn our place in the dance. The endless flow of movement that somehow creates purpose out of the chaos we endure. A dance that would be tuneless and dull were it not for the soft song of:
Forgiveness. Forgiveness for ourselves. Forgiveness for our forbearers. Forgiveness sparks the wisdom that sustains our souls. We operate in the darkness of our ignorance. At first we seek our forgiveness’s validation for each maligned aspect of our hopelessness, a tedious process that seems a practice in inefficacy. Then, as the sinews warm, basking in the light of our kindness, large swaths of self-loathing slough from us, and we spring anew from the piles of petrified expectations we never knew bound us so tightly. The gravity of our lives loosens its grasp and we begin our:
Ascendance. Ascendance to hope. Hope that transcends simple thoughts and wishes. A hope that becomes our state of being, rooted in self-confidence. We still carry our limitations with us. Nothing substantial has changed. Still, as we spring from the bitter cocoon, all things are light. Challenges become opportunity. We no longer hide ourselves. We are, at last, free.