She was just one of several dozen to walk across that stage tonight, a path punctuated by hugs from proud instructors and then, at the end, a diploma in a pristine blue envelope. For each graduate, the night had a different meaning, I’m sure. Some, who still looked too young to drive, will now be out in the world looking for that first “real job.” Others, cheered on by gaggles of excited children in the audience, are undoubtedly looking for a better way forward for themselves and their families. For each one, a different story.
One graduate in particular, though, a 40ish blond woman who I happily call my beloved, didn’t walk that stage in the sole pursuit of a career path or as the next logical step in a predefined educational process. For her — for us, really — this was about something more.
I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my wife being in recovery from a lifetime of addictions. But you see, conquering addiction isn’t a battle that one simply wins, only to put a checkmark in the victory column, then file the whole experience away like last year’s tax returns. It’s a fluid process… full of ups and downs, victories and defeats, crumblings and rebuildings. It’s a difficult reality to accept for someone — like me — without a personal frame of reference for the struggle, but I’m sure it’s an equally onerous truth for the recovering addict to adopt, as well.
So when my wife decided that she was going to go back to school in pursuit of something “new,” a complete 180 from her existing degree, part of me knew that it wasn’t just because a certain career opportunity had somehow piqued her interest. I knew it was going to be an attempt to bring definition to the progress she’d already made and would hopefully continue to make. It would be a process with a beginning, a middle, and a definable end. If successful, it would be more than just an educational feather in her cap. It would be a piece of paper to prove that those small daily victories have value.
Tonight, she graduated with high honors — Summa Cum Laude — which somehow seems incredibly appropriate.