This is Pastor Tim’s Article that appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, May 23, 2023
This is graduation season. I am sure you have received written notification of this by now, because in a town the size of St Marys, almost everyone knows or is affiliated with someone who is graduating. I have graduated three different times, and I was both excited and sad at all three. There are few changes in life that will be as drastic as graduating. Your whole life is consumed in pursuit of a diploma, but once you have the diploma in your hand, that is when you have to make it count. Congratulations on achieving graduation! It really is something to be proud of, but just know after graduation is when you prove what that diploma was really worth. What are you going to do now?
I remember certain parts of all three of my graduations. It is funny what sticks with you.
In 1993, I graduated from high school. There were 42 people in my graduating class. There are classrooms at Memorial High School that hold more students than that. Being that we were a small class, we all knew each other, or so I thought. I got to graduation, and I have this distinct memory of standing next to a kid I never met before. I think I remember asking him if he was at the wrong graduation. Turns out, he was a Hi Point student but had moved into my school district. So he was going to vocational school and got a diploma from USV when he had never stepped foot in our school before. I’m glad that was the case. If it turned out he was there the whole time and I just never noticed him that would have been incredibly rude of me.
In 1997, I graduated from Ohio Northern. That is the biggest graduation I was ever a part of. It took forever to read all the names, and it just so happened to be a tad on the warm side that day. The gym in King Horn Center was packed, and all my family was there in support. I was the first college graduate ever in my family. What I remember most was that it felt like something my whole family had accomplished. My sister became the second just a few years later.
In 2000, I graduated from Seminary. If you do the math, I did 13 years of school, 4 years of college, and 3 years of full-time classes for Seminary, so I was 25 years old and I had been going to school full time for 20 of those years. I was so burned out on reading books that it took me years before I could stand to read books again. I was so excited to start what I considered to be a normal life. Up until then I had been delivering pizzas and working odd jobs on campus making less than minimum wage. I couldn’t wait to get a real job. Upon graduating, I became a full-time associate pastor in Cincinnati for $21,000 a year. I felt like the richest man ever born until I realized how quickly all that money was spent. The cost of living in Cincinnati was very high, even in the early 2000s. I lived in Cincinnati, but I couldn’t afford to do anything. Which was ok because I didn’t have time to do anything because I worked 40 hours a day at the church (that is not a typo).
What I learned through all of these graduations is the exact same thing the class of 2023 is about to learn. I loved every phase of my life, and all of those phases were separated by either a graduation or a job change, which is very similar. As I reflect back on my life, I have categorized things as happening during a particular phase. I played football during high school, I went to the Philippines during college, and I began serving a church as a pastor in Seminary. I was in a horrible car accident where I was lucky to survive while serving in Cincinnati, I had bariatric surgery while I was in Marseilles, and I purchased the Beetle while I was in Forest Park. During my time in St Marys, I became a first-time homeowner. All of these are events that I associate with phases of my life, and all of those phases are punctuated by graduations of one kind of another. Not all of the phases were wonderful, but they all had their redeeming qualities and lessons that I learned.
My advice for you, don’t lose out on the blessing of one phase of your life by wishing it was over. The class of 2023 is experiencing one of the best times of their lives right now, so enjoy it. Don’t ruin it by being negative or by being frustrated the next phase is approaching so slowly. Be in the moment and soak it up now. You will remember it much fonder for the rest of your life if you take the advice of an old man who has wished away too much of his own life because he couldn’t wait to get to what was next.