It is the time of year that brings many fresh starts: the flowers blooming, the grass greening, and the baby birds tweeting from their nests. It also is a time of change and renewal for those who are graduating from high school, college, and graduate school. Whether you are a graduate yourself, know a person graduating, or have no connection to a graduation celebration — it’s an opportunity to focus on a new chapter that we can present ourselves with any day of the year. Working with clients who struggle with issues like addiction and eating disorders, I continuously support them in a reminder: today is a new day. Today is a new beginning and it’s in your lap to latch onto. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our daily stress, anxiety, struggles, and worries. It can seem like the past haunts us every day and that we cannot get a break. I believe that the chance for recovery and renewal is almost completely determined by our own mindset: do you believe that you can start anew? do you have hope for a healthy and happy future?
When I think of graduation, I see it as a time of celebration in recognizing the achievement of hard work and perseverence. It is when family and friends gather in love and laughter. It can be a time of excitement as well as anxiety: what’s next? Where will I go from here? Who will be there with me on my journey? Whether you are graduating from an academic institution or perhaps graduating into a new journey of recovery and wellness, there are a myriad of emotions that accompany any type of change. What comes up for you when you think of change, new beginnings, transitions?
Therapeutically, a change in a life cycle — such as beginning a new career after graduation or moving onto college — can bring up some feelings or issues that may have been unresolved from previous life cycle transitions. For example, graduating from high school and planning to move to another state for college can trigger some anxieties or frustrations relating to a family member that are left over from previous transitions. Perhaps you have a younger sibling and when he or she was born, you felt (consciously or unconsciously) that attention was taken away from you and given to your sibling. Moving from that major life cycle transition to one such as graduation, you may feel sensitive towards attention at this time in your life — either wanting more or less of it. Transitions cause us to re-evaluate where we are, what we “have” in terms of an emotional bank account, and where we might have some lingering feelings. Transitions can also be a time of “leaving things behind”, such as a tumultuous relationship or negative experience. In this light, the opportunity to move forward is cleansing and cathartic — though for certain there are remnants of what you have learned from past experiences that stay with you always.
In honoring this special time of leaving things behind and moving forward, I encourage you to think of how you would like to greet new transitions in your life. You hold the power to mold the present moment as well as the future. What would you like to take with you in your toolbox from the past to help you on your new venture? What would you like to forget? I am someone who believes that each of our experiences teach us something that we can use constructively in our lives. It is our choice whether to do so or not.
I offer a hearty congratulations to graduates everywhere and on every walk of life — the future is yours and there is so much still left to discover! Stamp your unique mark forcefully on the world and echo it gracefully and meaningfully in your own life!