My son is on the verge of becoming a college graduate. This is not a surprise as much as it is a celebration of his tenacity. Way back when, after a particularly arduous first day of kindergarten, announced that he had enough. All of those rigorous structures and expectations were weighing heavily on him, and he figured after dipping a toe in that he had a solid understanding of what might take place for the next eighteen years.
After some cajoling and a few tears, he was persuaded to give it another shot. One day became a week, a week became a month and pretty soon he had managed to string together a full school year. Complete with promotional exercises.
How could he have anticipated that this would continue for the better part of two decades? Each time he considered cutting and running, his parents were there to cajole him into giving it one more chance. This education thing was a very mixed bag. On the one hand, there was homework. On the other, there was a herd of new friends. With each passing year, new connections were made. Some were left behind, but this new feature of gathering associates and playdates kept him in the game. There were still struggles, but he found his way to that promotion at the end of high school, the one that felt like a leap into the abyss. Instead he landed in college, where he was surrounded by a number of his pals from high school. A considerable comfort compared to the experience of so many freshman entering that dorm room for the first time, not knowing what to expect.
It would be easy to say that the social aspect of school is what kept him going all these years. But it wouldn't be entirely true. At the end of each day, there were still those expectations and structures that kept him from running in the halls and leaving whenever he felt like it. He stuck with it, even when the struggles outweighed the successes. He took bits from each class he attended. Not that he would acknowledge it now, but he learned a lot. So much so that he felt the need to share his new learnings with his parents. We tried not to remind him, as he spoke at length about ideas he had collected as a result of sticking with this whole education nonsense, the times that he had wanted to cut and run.
But we didn't.
That's the really impressive part. He did not give up. He made friends. He kept them. He learned, as his university's motto reminded him, by doing. Over and over again. That sound you hear is that of the applause from his friends and family.