The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
– Viola Davis
My baby just graduated from high school.
|Miranda's first and last days of school.|
As she prepares to step out into the world, I've been thinking a lot about my own momentous transition into pre-adulthood. What advice can I give her, especially given the world she is entering into—a world that I hardly even recognize anymore?
The class of 2020 is going to need more flexibility, more resiliency, and more self-confidence than I ever had at that age. And these are just a few of the characteristics necessary to pull this generation through. I do believe they have what it takes, though—Miranda and her older brother certainly do. I'm counting on them and their peers to help the rest of us find our way.
In honor of her graduation, I thought about sharing this poem by Langston Hughes.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Read the rest here.
Dreams are vital, as is holding tight to a vision of the future we want for ourselves. But what sticks with me are the images of the "broken-winged bird" and the "barren field frozen with snow." This poem is more of a warning than a celebration, no? I sense that Miranda is tired of me protecting her. She wants to be set free. I need to trust that her wings are strong.
So what about this poem by Jen Bryant?
AND LATER . . .
I take my kaleidoscope off the shelf,
look through the little hole at the end
of the cardboard tube;
I turn and turn and turn and turn,
Read the rest here.
I love that this poem speaks to who Miranda is as an artist. That vital creative force that seems like serendipity, but is so much more. Without a doubt, Miranda's ability to tap into those "strange and beautiful patterns" will take her far.
And yet, beyond the message to trust herself and be open to whatever comes (which is an important one), it still doesn't feel like it encompasses everything I want to say.
There was a plaque that hung in my 1970's bedroom. I'm not sure what happened to it, but I read it so often as a child, it became an affirmation of sorts that's stayed with me over the decades. I was lucky enough to find an image online:
Yes. This is the advice I'd like Miranda to take to heart. In fact, I probably had this plaque in mind back in September 2017 when I wrote "A Mother's Advice" for Carol Boston Weatherford's abecedarian challenge. It seems fitting to revisit it on this occasion:
A MOTHER'S ADVICE
Along the way…
Do good deeds
Find a reason to be
Help when you are able.
Joy, Kindness, and Love
Pulls us together.
Understanding, not Violence,
Weathers the storms.
eXplore your horizons—
Your time has come.
© 2017 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.
I also wanted to find a commencement speech that would speak to Miranda—words of advice by a strong woman, like herself, with a creative sensibility. I spent a good long time searching, but eventually came up with just the right one—Viola Davis speaking to the 2012 graduating class of Providence College. (Her speech begins about three minutes in.)
She uses an interesting metaphor, comparing life to a pivotal scene from The Exorcist. Surprisingly, it not only works, it's timely—some of the demons she mentions are ones we, as a society, are facing today more than ever. More important, however, is her overriding message to find and stay true to your authentic self no matter what life throws your way. She closes with Topsy Washington's party monologue from George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum, and these defiant lines:
... whereas I used to jump into a rage anytime anybody tried to deny who I was, now all I got to do is give attitude, quicker than light, and I’m dancing to the music of the madness in me. And here I was, all this time I been thinking we gave up our drums. But, naw, we still got ‘em. I know I got mine. They’re here, in my speech, my walk, my hair, my God, my style, my smile, and my eyes. And everything I need to get over in this world, is inside here, connecting me to everybody and everything that’s ever been.
So, hunny, don’t waste your time trying to label or define me. ... ‘cause I’m not what I was ten years ago or ten minutes ago. I’m all of that and then some.
Congratulations, Miranda, and keep dancing to the music of the madness in you. We're so proud.
|8-year-old Miranda in front of the Carina Nebula (Kennedy Space Center)|
Truth be told, I wish I felt more defiant these days. It's not that I'm complicit or apathetic, just tired. Exhausted really. Which means it's time for me to take a break for a while and tend to my home fires.
While I'm gone, please feel free to peruse the TLD archives. You'll find plenty to keep you busy writing all summer long. You'll find an alphabetical listing of spotlight interviews HERE and links to all 50 (!) of our ditty challenges HERE. You'll also find The Best of Today's Little Ditty (2014-2015, 2016, and 2017-2018) available in paperback and ebook versions on Amazon.com.
Stay safe and well, my friends. I'll see you in the fall.
Reflections on the Teche. Inspired by Kindness, she shares an inspiring farewell letter poem to her students.