Two weeks ago I said goodbye to my first class of babies at their graduation.
Ok. Let me back up a bit… In January 2016, I started a new job. It was the perfect combination of two things I love: working with young people + not being a teacher. You see, at this new job, it was my task to support, inspire, coach, and counsel high school students. But, I was not hired as a teacher. Instead, I was hired as a mentor to three different grades. So, I suddenly had 90 kids to take care of and care for under my wing.
But, one of these classes, the class of the ones in their first year of high schools, was wild. They were chaotic, turbulent, and I walked right into the middle of it all in January. Now, I wasn’t worried or frightened or anything like that (I had had much tougher students to work with in the States: think gangs and gun-toting drug dealers). Still, this group of young adults was messy, fussy, stubborn, and needed some serious motivation.
So, I did what I do. I talked. I listened. I got irritated. I felt inspired. I held hands. I hugged. I had meetings. I told stories. And I prayed that I would spread some good energy to these kids who quickly + affectionately became known as my babies.Well, two and a half years later, it was time to send them off to become their own adults + live their own lives. I started struggling with the thought of telling them goodbye way back in January of this year. And, just as I warned them, the entire spring semester flew by + suddenly it was time for their graduation.
Oh, how heavy my soul was at the thought of not having this crazy, wild class that had grown so much, and yet still maintained their craziness, around me every day. At the same time, I was so very proud of my babies – and so excited that it was time for them to move on + out + up.
Graduation time was here + with it, all of the beautiful Swedish traditions!
A week before graduation, the school arranged an afternoon at the park for the graduates. We played games, ate cake, drank bubbles, and I even held a short little speech for them (with my colleague). It was a super fun, cozy afternoon, which ended on a super high note. My babies asked me to stand up on a bench and they surrounded me, standing on the ground below me. They read a poem about me, I cried, some of them cried, and then we all hugged. It was incredible.
A week later, it was graduation day + I met them up at the base of the castle in town for their class photos. There was a super festive spirit in the air, my babies had already been celebrating since 6am with a champagne breakfast, and they had given out all of the “class’s ______” to each other. When they arrived for the class photo, they read the poem they’d written for me again and they gave me the honor of being the class’s inspiration.
I was so touched + moved that I could barely take it all in.
These amazing lovelies of mine, who started high school the same year I started my job, had shared with me that I had done exactly what I had always hoped I would do – and that is to simply make a tiny bit of difference to someone, somewhere, someday. But to hear it from the class, to be voted as their inspiration… well, I just don’t have words.
We all go through life, often hoping to leave something positive behind, never really knowing if we do or not. And, amazingly, humbly, I have been given the gift of hearing a little bit from the young people I’ve worked with about how I have touched their lives.
I couldn’t ask for anything more in life. Literally. Nothing else. At all.
And, to be honest, what little bit I may have given, have I also received one hundred fold. My babies, all of them, all over the world, have given + continue to give me so very much.
With the emotional moment of being crowned the class’s inspiration done + after I’d gathered my wits again (hehe), we headed to the space where the school was hosting a brunch + a program for the graduates.
We ate together, laughed, sang, heard a few speeches, and then I handed out grades + awards to my graduates, my babies, along with their teachers. A I stood there, hugging each one of their necks as they came up one by one, tears streamed down my face. Tears of joy and pride. And to have that tiny little moment with each other them for one last time… that was priceless.
And then, it was time for the high point of the day. In Sweden, the students run out from their teachers/mentors to their friends + families who are excitedly waiting to receive them. It is a powerful, very exciting, moment. Freedom. Accomplishment. Pride. Excitement. It’s such a big, beautiful moment.
I held the door closed, as all of the graduates gathered around me, we listened to the music pumping through the speakers, looking out at the families. And then…. at just the right time in the music, when it crescendoed + dropped, I opened the doors and they all ran past me + out into the crowd. They were now graduates!
After a bit of time, they all gathered on the truck they had rented. With their rented speakers blaring, my babies climbed onboard in the open back of the truck and started dancing. It was party time! The truck was going to drive them around the city (along with tons of other graduates from other schools on trucks of their own) so they could wave and dance and laugh and celebrate. And the whole entire city celebrated with them – and all of the graduates on that day. There is a spirit pulsing through the city like no other on graduation day. Trucks and horns and graduates and music all over the city. All day long. It is just absolutely fantastic.
Fast forward one week, and it was finally time for my other students’ last day of school. The ones who didn’t graduate, but who are coming back for the 2nd and 3rd years next year.
The last day of school was a short one. The school staff set out coffee, cake, and cider for the students + prepared a little program of music, awards, and, yep, a few little inspirational words from me + my colleague.
After the program, summer break had begun! I stood by the door, hugging the necks of all of my other babies, the ones I will see after summer. A few tears fell, but all in all, it was just a whole bunch of celebrating + love.
A group from the class that will be graduating next year (I already have anxiety about saying goodbye to them!) came to me + gave me flowers, thanking me for taking care of them. And, at that point, I didn’t know if my heart + soul could take it anymore. I have never been so affirmed + humbled as I have been throughout the end of this school year.
And, I just have to add, not only did I enjoy graduation in my professional work this year, but in my personal life as well. Our niece, Lina’s sister’s daughter, graduated… along with a cousin and a few young people I worked with a few years ago. So, I got to totally be in the family receiving end of graduation celebrations as well.
So, basically, f I ever wondered if was where I should be right now, then I will never wonder again. I cannot express how deeply humbled I am. All I can do is bow my head to the ground + give deep, eternal thanks for the work that I am called to.
The Swedish traditions around high school graduation are beautiful in and of themselves; but, this year, they took on a whole other meaning for me. It has been a month of pure, deep joy + gratitude. And my soul is absolutely overflowing.