Most of us know someone who is graduating this time of year. Perhaps we will be attending a graduation ceremony, or reading a famous person’s commencement address, or reflecting back to our own graduations. The fact that graduations are called commencements has always caught my attention. Calling them commencement ceremonies makes it clear that every ending is also a beginning. To quote the song, “Closing Time,” by Semisonic, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” (If you’ve never heard of this song, ask someone who is graduating about it!)
There is another term related to graduation and commencement ceremonies that truly captures what is happening in those moments, and at the same time has a great message for all of us, whether we are graduates or not. Commencement ceremonies are also referred to as commencement exercises, as in “the 165th Commencement Exercises for the University of _______ will be held.....”
I love the phrase “commencement exercises” because it makes it clear that beginning something new takes effort! Like all forms of exercise, beginning something new takes discipline, commitment, and intentional effort over a prolonged period of time. The rewards from such exercise may not be apparent immediately, or even in the short term, but over time, regular exercise will always make a marked difference our lives.
In honor of all who will be participating in official commencement exercises this year, I’d like to offer a suggestion for the rest of us. Why not think about creating a commencement exercise for yourself right now? Is there something new that you would like to do to increase wellness in some aspect of your life? Would you like to start a new hobby, a new workout program, a new activity with someone you love? Would you like to learn a foreign language, or start a new garden, or start a new spiritual practice or routine?
Creating commencement exercises on a regular basis is a good thing! It strengthens the muscles we need for negotiating transitions and helps us to thrive. Commencement exercises keep us strong in body, mind and spirit.
So as we celebrate and honor all who are participating in commencement exercises, I hope we all will think about creating a few commencement exercises of our own.