Tonight I attended my cousin’s 8th grade graduation, and man, it brought back some memories. I went to one Catholic grade school for 8 years much like a lot of the kids tonight, and I can remember how I felt when I finally left. It was the end of an era. The beginning of What Comes Next. And I was ready for it.
And so, while I was sitting in the church listening to speeches by 8th-grade-graduates, I heard them say things like, “We’ve had some of the best times of our lives here,” and “We’ll never forget the great memories from this school.”
And those words rang through my head–best times of our lives… never forget…– and then it hit me: for these kids, their world is so small. All they know is this school, these friends, this knowledge. Their graduation is so important to them because this is the world they have known for 8 or more years. And now, they’re leaving it for the first time. They have outgrown their world. They have conquered it.
It’s time for them to move onto a slightly bigger world–high school– wrought with new challenges and self-discovery and friends and teachers and experiences. With this milestone, they head into a wider world. And eventually they will outgrow that world, too. Like I, and so many others, did.
And I think about where I am, in the middle of my even wider world of college. More knowledge and experiences and travelling opportunities and diversity of people are available to me than ever before. But despite how big my world still seems to me, I will outgrow it within only a few years. I will conquer the world I have now.
But after college, there are no more wider worlds except the World. And that’s where you end up. The restrictions of your previous worlds all fall away until the only place to go is forward into the unknown. Into the widest World there is.
So as I remember the 8th-grade-graduates cheering as they exited the church, I think about the reason why years seem shorter as you get older. The older you get, the smaller the fraction of your life a year is. (i.e. For a five-year-old, a year is 1/5 of their life, whereas for a fifty-year-old, a year is 1/50 of their life.) This graduation, though a somewhat small-scale milestone for those in attendance with wider worlds, to the graduates, was their biggest milestone yet.
But with wider worlds come bigger milestones. For now, they will rejoice in the Moving Forward. They will revel in the understanding that this world is now too small.