Transitions? Revolution? A Spiritual (not Religious) Baccalaureate Service at Smith College

I have been appointed to help put together this year’s Smith College Baccalaureate; while I feel immense joy at being thought of for such an honor,at the same time, I wonder quite a lot about the intentions of my fellow committee members. We had a lunch meeting this afternoon to plan how exactly we wanted our baccalaureate to look – what we wanted to say. Out of the blue, the decided theme was “Transitions” and “revolution.” While both decidedly cliche, each member of the committee seemed particularly attached to the idea that we are in a transitional time, or perhaps that we have undergone countless transitions during our time at Smith, and now was the perfect time to discuss them with everyone. (Not that we don’t do that enough at Smith to begin with…) The ladies seemed especially connected to this topic, and tried to do everything they could to give the audience (fellow seniors) the opportunity to voice and share their transitions – either good or bad – with the rest in attendance. It is not without saying that I am not the first to volunteer my feelings or emotions, I think that this theme in particular serves a few purposes for the committee. It allows them to think aloud about their experiences at Smith, the people they befriended, and the professors they looked up to.

But as far as I am concerned, I feel like the service would be far better if it didn’t focus so heavily upon weepy, overly-sentimental quotes that otherwise have no application to our lives. I think the good intention is there, but do we really notice the transitions and changes that have occurred in us in such a short period of time? I know that certainly I have changed, and who I was when I came to Smith isn’t necessarily who I am now, but only in the future will I see the full extent to which I have changed. It is because of this that I see the theme as naive, or rather overzealous. Why is it necessary to sit around and “mourn” the loss of our college years? Or is it supposed to be a celebration of the people we are to be in the future, rather than the intense focus on who we have become during our time in college? Why the sudden and hurried focus on who we have become? Isn’t it more important to think about who we wish to become in the future? After all, we are going to be adults far longer than we will ever be college students; why not spend our few remaining days thinking about how we can use our Smith education to change the world, or at least the environments we exist in?

I guess to some extent, it is easier to think about who we have become, rather than to take the risky leap into the future to think about who we will become. Perhaps it is far more simple to think about what has happened, rather than to think about the uncertain future that lays before many graduating college seniors. And for some, the concept of transitions is something that is far easier to contemplate than the idea that to some extent, their future is bright, but foggy at the moment. The fear of the unknown that lies ahead for some is without a doubt and rightfully so, a frustrating and easily upsetting prospect. I obviously can’t speak to how this might feel, and I won’t begin to even try. But at the same time, I wonder whether or not it is at all therapeutic to discuss a highly sensitive subject in front of a great portion of the class, many of whom are frustrated as is.

Ultimately, I worry that baccalaureate was this mushy, sentimental moment for seniors to “share their feelings” and talk about their “futures.” I don’t want the get together to be seen as a giant therapy session for Smithies who have not taken control of their futures, or at least of their own experiences. I will be the first person to express that it is critically important to process the experiences – both good and bad – that we have had at Smith. But it is also important to compartmentalize those experiences and use what we have to make both our lives and the lives of those we know and love better in the future. Because life isn’t about what we have done over the last four years, but rather about what we will do in the future.

So take up your future, don’t linger too long in the past. Remember who you were at Smith, but more importantly, think and dream about who you will become in the future. As, there is nothing you can do about your past, but to change it in the future. Be your future, however frightening it may be.

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