Gearing up for graduation

A line from the book ‘the covenant of water’ by Abraham Verghese helped me better understand a fleeting feeling I experienced and examine it. The context of the line is a daughter saying goodbye to her father as she is about to leave home, and head back to work.

“Their long embrace is different from past embraces. They’ve reversed roles. She is the parent, leaving her child to fend for itself, but the child clings to her. As the train pulls away, her father stands there waving, smiling bravely, a line and forlorn figure.” In this paragraph I got a glimpse of myself.

A call with my son planning our trip to the US to attend the much awaited graduation ceremony left me with this fleeting feeling of being left behind. I could not put my finger on the feeling at the time, but I found myself behaving like the child not the parent.

I was sulking because I felt that I was not likely to get enough of his time and attention in the few days we would be together. Like a child wants the parent to spend more time with them, but the busy parent (who often does want the same) with many commitments is unable to fit it all in. The roles were suddenly reversed.

His world has filled up with so many new things, people and responsibilities that were not there before. He has to finish off his last assignment and exams. He has to apply for jobs and finalise his upcoming internship. He has to find a new place to stay and pack up what was his home for the last few years. He has to plan for his girlfriend’s birthday. He has to also plan for his parent’s visit.

From being the centre of his universe to opening up the universe for him has changed the place we have in his orbit. This is the cycle of life. We are not the first parents to go through this phase and we will not be the last but for me it’s a new experience. For a fleeting moment, I became the petulant child, sulking that the parent is not making enough time for me. Refusing to or not wanting to see the bigger picture – just wanting the little boy back in my life.

The desire to get undivided time and attention from my not so little boy, made me feel like a little boy again. Examining the feeling and acknowledging that it reared its head for a few minutes helped. It helped me realise that he too wants to spend the time with me. Like I did when he was small and as much as I wanted to I just could not because of all that was going on in my life at that time. This helps the parent in me find sure footing again. He needs me to understand and be there for him as he stands at the threshold of a new adventure. The world beckons. The possibilities are endless. What a wonderful, exciting and scary doorstep it must be to look at the world through the eyes of 22.

It is a privilege to be present to witness his graduation ceremony and mark the occasion with many wonderful memories. This is a class that began its journey in the middle of a pandemic, so the physical gathering to commemorate the class of 2024 is not just another ceremony. It truly is a moment to savour and be reminded how special it is the come together in person, cheer and whistle and hug one another. This is the essence of life and being human. A wonderful reminder about our connectedness and the uniqueness of each graduate as they get set to change the world in their own special way. The stories we tell ourselves, first give shape to our inner world and then touch the world around us.

The start of something new awaits the creator of – may you always remain a student of life and keep learning son. You have taught me so much. Your graduation is another learning moment in the dance between parent and child. Sometime the parent will lead and at others the child will, the important thing is to enjoy the dance. We must both smile bravely and embrace this new phase that we are graduating into, knowing that we are not alone.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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