Graduation

The poem below was written for young people in and from government care who were graduating high school.

You Are Here Today

Okay, so Dr. Seuss talks about, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”
Right now, though, I want to acknowledge and honour the places you already know. The things
you’ve seen and the places you’ve been. The darkness you’ve known that has forced you to grow
and the seeds, along your way, that you have chosen to sow.
The mountains you’ve faced and that you’ve moved.
The roads you’ve paved and the ways you’ve proved that you deserve to be here today.
To use your voice. To make your choice. To have your say.
When others told you, maybe, to shut up or go away.
When it could have been easier to hide in the sidelines and slip in to the fray.
When it was difficult to get out of bed and keep the demons, in your head and your heart, at bay.
You are here today.
When, perhaps sometimes it seemed not possible, plausible, or logical that you would be able to
celebrate this date.
Or contemplate a fate or participate, facilitate, and create a state of being that could be great.
You have demonstrated it is not ever too late.
You are here today.
When your life seemed low and the walls of darkness too high.
And you weren’t sure you had the strength to get by.
When you tried not to cry and believe the lies that tied you to despair.
Because life isn’t fair when you’re in care yet feel unloved.
You are here today.
My hope is that we might hold both the darkness and the light. To honour you in all your warrior
fight and to delight in the sight of you, on the figurative and literal stage of graduation, and
turning another page in your own book. The one you authored by your damn self while realizing
and accepting and celebrating the characters that you welcomed into your story – to hold your
triumphs and your worries, your darkness and your glories.
I believe in the theory of relativity which reminds me that there is no universality to adversity.
Darkness is relative. I won’t pretend that I know all yours if you won’t pretend to know all mine.
And, at the same time, know that I have shared space in some similar places. I may not know you
personally but I am profoundly proud of you. And so are the adults in this room who have
planned and gathered to celebrate all and each of you.
And, so, you ought to be proud of you, too.
Why am I here today?
We are different pictures in different frames and yet we are the same.
Not necessarily in culture, gender, spirituality, or name but in that we’ve all walked that
government game. Likely at some point we’ve all held some shame. And, at other times, equal
parts blame.
And yet, our spirits cannot be tamed.
I have been without a home, free and left to roam. I have been without a meal, left to beg,
borrow, and steal.
Sometimes not knowing what truth is real with the mental health diagnoses. The psychoses and
neuroses. A piece of peace of mind can’t be bought but our time in the mess and the darkness
reminds us that we can shine.
Right now is your time.
And, it is sublime.
Despite all the shit you’ve had to sift through, I hope you know that as you sit there you can
acknowledge that your birth was applauded and that today is the beginning again. No need to
pretend. Perhaps it’s not clichéd, what you say, if you believe it to be true.
This I know I of you: the miles you’ve walked and the secrets you’ve talked do not define you. Or
bind you. Or align you to despair.
So don’t you dare question your share or contribution to this world.
What I want to say to you is don’t ever think you don’t have a voice or a choice. You are always
welcome, and trust that you are capable, to claim a seat at the table – when you are ready and
when you are able.
You are here today.
I challenge us to go forward to find the pieces that bind us together and, from here, support our
siblings in the system. Because we weren’t created to journey through adversity or joy alone.
I challenge each of us to consider our responsibility as individuals, and as a community, what it
means to be an instrument in a person’s symphony of resiliency.
Congratulations on graduation!
What can I say about this strange, symbolic, systemic milestone?
You’ve done it – you’re done.
The high school battle has been won. Though the institution was a worthy opponent you are
tremendously triumphant.
You are not, and won’t ever be, alone. Because whether you can see it or believe it there is a
symphony of resiliency that serenades you.
Those are the people who have chosen to love you, in sometimes small and sometimes tall ways
– keeping you company through it all. Available to text or call or lean and fall into.
I am here today.
They are here today.
You. Are here today.
What will you do tomorrow?
So. How now, Dr. Seuss, about the places you’ll go?

© Meredith Graham 2017

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