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A Proposal for Process

Madam President,

In regards to your plan for overhauling the U.S. education system, I have some ideas for how to enhance writing curriculum in our public schools.

First, and most importantly, make it common policy that process drafts are not graded. This will allow students to see writing as a true process–one that takes time and includes trial and error. When a work-in-progress is graded, it is hard for students to see it as anything but a product and this inhibits their ability to take risks. Taking risks and trying new things in the writing process can be a highly rewarding learning experience that will ultimately help our students become better writers.

In keeping with the idea of reinforcing process, more schools should work towards a flipped classroom approach in which students are given ample time to work on composing and revising in class and not just at home. Regular class time working on a project shows that writing can take a long time and require multiple sittings. This will give the message to students that it is OKAY to not finish a writing task in one sitting. Professional writers do this regularly; why shouldn’t we allow our students the same courtesy?

In general, curriculum should include more long-term reading projects of the student’s choice. Reading takes time and patience, just like writing. We need to build up students’ endurance to stick with a project (reading or writing) long-term. The students should have a say in what they read–let’s get back to fiction. Reading non-fiction is good for students’ exposure to new ideas, but not at the cost of reading things they enjoy. This recent move away from fiction not only does a disservice to our students, but it seems to send a message that creativity and imagination is somehow inferior to facts and reality.

Finally, as all adults know, real-world writing entails a lot more than 5-paragraph essays. I propose a mandatory genre-based approached. Students should learn how to write essays, but also how to view OTHER types of writing with equal gravity. Professional emails, memos, appeals, and blogs are all worthwhile and relevant writing tasks for students to explore. We must teach them how to code switch and be multi-modal writers who know how to adapt to different writing situations by assessing the goal and audience for each task.

Thank you for your time and I hope these suggestions help you finalize your proposal. Please feel free to contact me for further discussion on the advancement of writing in our public schools.


Nikki Bosca

Dear Madam President

Dear Madam President,

I am writing to you on behalf of public grade school and high school students in America who face difficulty speaking, reading, and writing Standard English. Today, this last phrase is fraught with misinterpretation and political undertones because no common definition exists for Standard English, beyond the notion that public leaders accept “correct” usage as the national norm.

The problems of adhering to Standard English are manifold for students who grow up not speaking English at home as well as for students who endure poor English tutelage in struggling inner-city schools. The underlying challenge is to assist students to speak, read, and write Standard English competently by the time they finish high school, some bound for college and others for technical training.

The point of knowing how to use Standard English is not to receive class status; instead, the point is to provide a practical advantage in written and oral communication that should be available to every young person in America. Addressing this issue is crucial, especially in two early settings: colleges application officials judge students by their ability to use Standard English; employers appraise job applicants by their fluency in it.

In colleges and universities, writing centers are places where tutors—often graduate assistants—help students to become better writers. They do not use scores or tests, but friendly coaching approaches in writing and cognitive-thinking skills to produce a literate and persuasive piece of writing. In grade schools and high schools, few are united on the best approach to teaching good writing skills, although most agree that hammering grammar rules into children’s heads is not productive.

My recommendation to your new Secretary of Education is to incorporate the concept and practice of writing centers into the lives of students in grade schools and high schools. Let us provide them with a friendly environment where they are not judged or graded on their writing and reading skills but encouraged and rewarded for learning to express themselves. Let them meet one-on-one, ideally, or in a workshop setting, with a tutor or rotating staff member, who can teach them transforming skills: What is the question we are addressing and how do we examine and solve it? What is a sentence? How do we break it down and build it up again so that we understand the role of each part?

If, Madam President, you plan, during your first term, to engage America’s young people in helping you to solve the problems of this country, please allow them to learn to express themselves, to communicate in thoughtful and meaningful ways, and to find and analyze solutions to problems. I believe that writing centers can make a crucial difference in meeting your administration’s educational goals and would be glad to send any supporting materials on writing centers to the new Secretary of Education.

Most sincerely,

Ann McKinstry Micou, D.Litt.

Center for Writing Excellence, Montclair State University

Kicking and Screaming





What will follow is the ending to my favorite movie.

Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler.

The movie is Kicking and Screaming, the 1995 film directed by Noah Baumbach, not to be confused with the Will Ferrell movie, Kicking & Screaming, from a decade later.

My favorite film is about a group of friends who graduate from college, but don’t move on with their lives, physically or emotionally. Max and Grover keep their apartment together, Otis puts off going to grad school in Milwaukie, Skippy spends most of his nights with his college girl friend and re-enrolls in school to audit the classes he feels he missed, and the wise bar tender Chet is rumored to have taken every class that the University offers, but is somehow still struggling to finish the third chapter of his thesis.

This movie was made in the 90’s and was allowed to exist, I think, in part because of the success of the sitcom Seinfeld. If Seinfeld was a show about nothing then Kicking and Screaming is a film about nothing. Of course, that isn’t exactly true; it wouldn’t be my favorite movie if nothing happened, which coincidentally is said about Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, except it’s a two act play, so nothing happens twice.

Kicking and Screaming is a film about emotional paralysis. It’s about the main character Grover, and his inability to move on with his life when his girlfriend Jane leaves him to accept a position in a writing program in Czechoslovakia, it is never made clear if it’s Slovakia or the Czech Republic, Grover never had a chance to keep up on the news in college. Grover discovers Jane’s change in plans during the opening scene of the movie and what follows is an hour and thirty-six minutes of Grover and his friends making the occasional bad choice, but mostly refusing to choose, which prevents them from moving on with their lives. Interspersed in this nothing, are the well placed flashbacks Grover has of Jane, who he first encounters in his writing class.

Jane says,”I’d like to say first up that, uh… the prose is remarkable. It’s beautifully written. Uh, however, I’ve noticed that, uh, the characters in Grover’s stories… spend all their time discussing the least important… things. Uh- You know, like what to have for dinner or… who’s the best-looking model in the Victoria’s Secret catalog. I don’t know. To me, the story just seemed slight. It had the feeling of being written in – in one night.”

Grover responds, “I – I think I said plenty. Uh, perhaps something rubbed Ms.” “- Hayworth-” “Well, it seems I must have done something right if Ms. Hayworth has reacted so strongly. And this was a particularly hot issue of Victoria’s Secret. They had to make some very tough decisions.”

Jane counters, “You -You joke, but I really see nothing wrong with dealing with the important subject matter. All that thought and energy put into Saturday morning cartoons. I – I think its depressing.” Despite this exchange, somehow the two fall in love. So you see, giving you the ending of the movie where Grover and Jane are about to have their first kiss can’t be a spoiler because they break up in the opening scene, so they had to have been together at one point.

Here’s the scene
The Scene opens with Grover running toward Jane who is walking away and taps her on the shoulder.

This is for my confession in the bar.

I’m – I’m a little drunk.
But I didn’t mean to scare you.

– That’s okay. I’ll take 50 cents.


– You still find your name weird?
– Oh. No.

Just happens to me occasionally.
Jane touches her retainer, with excitement.
Oh, I came up with a great comeback
to something you said to me yesterday.

I can’t remember it now, though.

How come I never saw you
before writing class?

I guess you didn’t look.
I mean, I’ve always been there.

Just to think, for four years
we were catching the same colds…
being bit by the same mosquitoes.

To think!

So, what’s your sign?

I’m a Scorpio.


– I’m a Libra.

– Oh, really? What does that mean?

-I don’t know. It should mean something,
though. It sounds like it does.

Yeah, it does.

– It must.
Jane takes a pad and pen from her purse and begins to write.
– Some story ideas?

No, something occurred to me.

That’s good to do that.
I always forget to carry writing materials.

Is it really obnoxious?

Okay, the way I see it…
if we were an old couple
and dated for years…

graduated away from all these
scholastic complications…
and I reached over and kissed you…
you wouldn’t say a word –
you’d be delighted… probably.

But if I was to do that now
it would be quite forward.
And if I did it the first time we ever met,
you probably would hit me.

What do you mean?


I just wish we were an old couple
so I could do that.

Jane’s hand reaches to her mouth and touches her retainer, but then puts her hand back down. She smiles. Grover laughs with big love struck eyes.

The screen fades to black and Freedy Johnston’s Bad Reputation plays as the credits roll.

On the one hand, Jane touches her retainer because she wants to take it out to Kiss Grover, but like Grover, she realizes her actions as well as his are “too forward,” but on the other hand, she touches it because she has thought of something witty to say as a retort to Grover’s heart felt, albeit awkward speech. Throughout the film, she removes her retainer to deliver punchy quips. And yet she stops herself from saying it. Grover is totally vulnerable. Jane could destroy him with a word, but she chooses not to. She chooses the kiss, a kiss the audience doesn’t see, but nonetheless knows of its occurs. This is one of the reasons I love this movie: Baumbach’s choice to leave the kiss out of view is telling of his gift as a young director. The entire love affair and heart break that follows, i.e. the entire movie depends on the perfection of that moment we don’t see, that we imagine, and I imagine we are left to imagine it because we all imagine it differently.

There are lot more reasons I have loved this movie and a few for why I have continued to love this movie. I have been some of these depressing and depressed characters. I have been Grover, heart-broken and heart breaking, living my story in my mind instead of writing it. I’ve been max who wanted to get “I hate it” tattooed in his mouth. I’ve been skippy, who’s thought he was an integral part of a group, when in reality I was an outlier. Heck, I dress like Grover. For a time, my drink of choice was Scotch, “these drinks that we’re drinking here, Scotch, affectations that become habit,” not to mention how

Twenty years I make it
through all that peer pressure.
– Suddenly, my senior year, you get me addicted.

– Because you smoke now, I should too?

No. But what you did was sneaky –
Yes, you should smoke too!

and I have even fancied myself, the mystic bar tender Chet, handing out wisdom in dimly lit rooms: “I’m paraphrasing myself here, but I’ve always said, ‘If Plato is a fine red wine, then Aristotle is a dry martini.’” But more than that, I love the way the film is so eloquently crafted, the way the present reminds Grover of the past, and how the characters in the background affect the characters in the foreground, something that seldom occurs in most films, but happens in our everyday lives, the pieces of conversation we pick up, as we walk silently by affect us, and so in the film, they affect the characters, we wander with Max across the campus he claims to hate, shaking his head at the things he hears although he’s “here now by choice”, as if there were a time when there wasn’t a choice, as if we couldn’t at any moment, run up to the counter of an airline and say,


Everybody else in America has been to Prague.
What’s the big deal, you send one extra?


You see, I’ve been needing to go there
for a long time now.

I mean, there’s Czech and Slovakia
and a big Jewish cemetery…

and the opera house and –

Maybe that’s Vienna where the opera house is.
But that’s nearby, you know.

Given the opportunity,
I’d hit Vienna too.

Hell, I’d do all of Europe,
given a chance.

I can imagine Jane and some Praguian idiot
dancing the night away.

A horrible image.

And the coffee –
See, all I know is American coffee.

Or the beer.
Whatever’s good over there.

It’s gotta all be better over there.

And nothing I eat has any taste.

This has been such a strange time.

I wonder, if I was there now,
how would things be different.

Isn’t there a big bridge with statues on it?

I seem to remember that
from a history class.

Jane and some guy
kissing on the bridge…

in public.

No, it’s Jane
and some Czech writer.

Image kills me.

Just great. This is so frustrating,
because I’m terrible at conflict. I hate it.

And if I’d imagined this problem
while falling asleep last night…

I don’t think I would have
spoken up to you.

Even in my fantasy life I just would
have accepted it. That’s who I am.

But today I have to go.
I have to.

And when I tell people about this in the future,
I know that –

it’ll be the time that I went.

And I know that when I review
this whole episode in my head…

I’m not gonna know what I did
or why I did it.

I think they’ve done something
with the real Grover.

But it’ll make a good story
of my young adult life.

You know,
the time I chose to go to Prague.

I’ll look back on it and I won’t believe
that I actually went, you know. I went away.

So let me go.

I have to. I need –

Just put me on the plane.

Let me go.


Metafiction is nontraditional story-telling that departs from conventional fictional forms. In metafiction, the author comments upon the story, addressing the audience directly to discuss the characters or intervening in their plans and dreams. This practice evokes Wilder’s play Our Town, in which the stage manager appears from behind the curtain to provide authorial comment on the plot and the characters. A particular device found in metafiction is the use of footnotes to guide readers toward the author’s point of view on a variety of issues.

Two examples of the use of footnotes in metafiction are Gilbert Sorrentino’s Imaginative Qualities of Actual Life (1971) and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). Sorrentino’s novel contains a series of episodes and anecdotes about a group of writers and artists living in New York City in the sixties. By means of sarcastic and pseudo-literary remarks set in footnotes, the author satirizes the social pretensions, serial infidelity, and literary conventions of the characters. Toward the end, the author shifts the setting to Vermont. To show he is in charge, he “gives” one couple a “sophisticated” house in Vermont: “Right out of Robert Frost, the old well, the barn, the stone fence, the cemetery with the Revolutionary dead—the birches, the pond, I give them Vermont.” He poses his self-conscious characters in “a portrait of the poet and his wife: you and I and moonlight in Vermont.”

The narrator in Díaz’s novel is his familiar alter ego, Yunior. Díaz, too, turns to footnotes, because no fictional language can recreate for the reader the horror and tragedy of the Trujillo regime; no novel can demonstrate the brutality of the U.S role in backing the dictator. Díaz knows the “emptiness and silence and abstinence in the historical record of the Caribbean”; in a tone both comic and tragic, he fills in the blanks so the reader can begin to grasp the reality. The footnotes also give Díaz the opportunity to discuss his love of science fiction. When Yunior calls Trujillo a Sauron, for example, he compares him to the tyrannical antagonist in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Only through metaphors like these can the reader comprehend the enormity of the injustice done in the Dominican Republic.

Readers passionately defend or dislike narratives styles. I remain neutral on the question of metafiction, but I would point out that, while Melville did not use footnotes, he allows his interpreter, Ishmael, to step out of the drama to address the audience directly in a series of apostrophes.

The Guitar as Writing Consultant

Inspired by a few of my colleagues’ music posts, I will discuss the writing relationship I have with my acoustic guitar.

I was a late-comer to the world of performing music.  In fact, I didn’t even know how to strum a chord on a guitar until I was around 36 years old.  Before that I was the guy who frequently said that in my next life, I’m going to learn how to play guitar. Well metaphorically, that became true.  As I made drastic life and identity changes, my first acoustic guitar, a $150 left handed Ibanez that I bought from a music store in Rutherford, NJ with the assistance of my little sister’s boyfriend, became the primary vehicle for my transition from firefighter to songwriter.

Having never taken a music lesson in my life, if I was going to learn how to play songs with that guitar, traditional lessons wouldn’t have been practical.  I wasn’t going to learn the Circle of Fifths or any of the mathematical nuances of music theory.  Music is a language.  So just like written and spoken alphabet languages, its much easier for a child’s mind to absorb the language in the developmental years.  My route to learning guitar was different; more practical but with less of a knowledge base that will hinder me in certain aspects of music making for the rest of my life.  And that’s fine.  My role in music is to write and strum songs.  I have managed to surround myself with a group of musicians who help me build the songs into bigger, more layered music.

My first guitar teacher was a neighbor and bar-buddy, Jeff “Fex” Eklund.  He understood the limitations of a late learning student like myself and developed a practical strategy for giving me lessons.  First he taught me 3 chords. E-A-D.  He drew me chord charts and sat with me and placed my fingers on the correct Frets and strings. He explained to me that certain groups of chords work well to make progressions that turn into songs.  It took me a while to be able to comfortably transition and strum through those three chords. But in time I got it. Then he taught me three more; C-F-G – After every two weeks or so, I’d return and pick up a few more chords.  Some minor chords – then onto bar chords.  After approximately four months, Fex got sick of the process and gave me the best guitar lesson of my life. “You have a lot of chords. Write a few songs.  You listen to alot of music.  You know how songs are structured. I ain’t teaching you know more chords till you write some songs.”  He gave me a talk about bridges, choruses, melodies, verses, stanzas and the relative minor of a major chord.  I took some notes.  Some of this stuff was ingrained in me through osmosis from a lifetime of listening to music.  But putting terms to the music helped me understand a bit more of what it would take to write a song in Western Music, or in my genres folk and rock and roll.

I had fancied myself a writer for many years.  I got my BA in English with a minor in journalism and was getting my MA in English and Writing Studies when I purchased the guitar. Yet school papers were academic and tedious.  I didn’t see myself pursuing a career in journalism.  Most of the writing that gave me the most pleasure was written in journals that were meant to sort out my mind during a tumultuous, transitional time in my life. So although I greatly valued my journal writings, they weren’t meant for an audience and there wasn’t any structure or discipline to them.  The Ibanez acoustic guitar changed all of that in a big way. Within weeks writing ideas were turning into songs with verses and choruses and sometimes with bridges. Strumming chords magically sent words into my head.  I jotted down catchy phrases in a notebook and saved them for later songs.  The Ibanez became my assistant in writing.  It gave me a voice that I always knew I had, but didn’t know how to access.

Songwriting has since become my primary mode of writing.  My guitar skills have continued to improve and always will I imagine.  But I will never be what is considered a great guitar player. My role in music is as a writer and as a guitar player my role is to hold down the rhythm of the songs that I write.   I’ve become one of two songwriters in The Porchistas a busy and notable rock band.  None of this would have happened if not for the magical relationship I have with that beat up Ibanez guitar.


That Which Quickly Became a Ode to Hamilton

At the age of 26, I can say that I have spent the last 21 years of my life being a professional student. The first 16 of these were fine, great even, but I’ve quickly become restless. I want a career. I want to ascend. I want to leave the perpetual purgatory that is pupilhood.

I think of my friends. Once we were comrades, commiserating over the struggles of undergrad, writing papers at three o’clock in the morning, cramming for exams. Now they’re lawyers, epidemiologists, athletic trainers, general managers, and EMTs. Me? I’m getting there. In just a year’s time, I will be graduating with my Master’s in Teaching. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Money to be made. A purpose to be fulfilled. But – and I apologize for going all Veruca Salt on you –

I’m a good egg, I swear, but in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda

And I know that I should

Wait for it (2)

But I’m antsy. I’m itching for the moment when I can enter the classroom and take my place at its front. I’m clawing at the chance to nurture a new generation and watch them graduate and move on to bigger and better things.

I ask myself, “Will I move onto bigger and better things?” Is teaching the highest rung of the ladder of ambition or does it reach higher? I can’t be sure. There’s a million things I haven’t done but just you wait.

Consider the Celesta

When thinking about writing as analogous to musical expression, rich, nuanced, multi-tonal instruments like the piano and the narrative voice of the guitar come to mind. Each of us has a litany of memories connected to those sounds, and just like potent writing can call us to righteous action or turn us into emotional, bumbling dolts, each of us can tap into reservoir of powerful feeling associated perhaps with the the piano or guitar.

However, let me take this opportunity to appeal to the piano’s weirder, higher, smaller (but just as expressive) cousin: the celesta. The tinkering, ethereal noise created by its keys striking internal steel plates (as opposed to piano’s suppler and more resonant strings) is one most probably immediately associate with Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” The composer was among the first few to use the instrument. Céleste means “heavenly” in French.



While the rich, operatic scale of the piano with its full seven octaves and three pedals for added expressivity calls to mind the masterful writers of the Western cannon, brooding exquisitely and pondering existential questions, scooping up Pulitzer Prizes and thrilling English majors world-wide, my own writing process is clearly on much less of a grand and portentous (as well as dignified) scale.

The celesta has just four octaves, and written music for it sounds a full octave higher when it is played. This smaller range and tinnier sound seems more metaphorically apt for discussing my own voice as a writer. However, far from being relegated exclusively to the realm of the precious and spritely, the celesta makes odd appearances to create the most disparate of moods:

Through Buddy Holly, its optimism and sunniness reach the pop sublime:

It can then switch back to eerily tranquil, foreboding and world-weary in the hands of the Velvet Underground:

It’s even played by Iggy Pop himself on Raw Power’s “Penetration,” which is about as far as you can get from another classic celesta sound: the opening bars to “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” from Mr. Rogers.

The celesta can also be moody, sullen, and introspective (another area where my own writing process is particularly similar), as it is on Gustav Holst’s “Neptune” from his Planet Series:

It can even become expansive and goosebump-inducing-ly operatic in the hands of Ennio Morricone:

Perhaps this is what I’d like to think is most parallel between my own writing and the celesta (what is the point of making a comparison about yourself if not for an ultimately flattering reflection): it has singularity of voice. In a world so besotted with pianos, all vying for bravado, importance, and grandeur, the celesta offers humor and wit along with its variety, which is really the best I can aim for as a writer myself.

Forget the Piano, I Make Music with My Computer Keys

To the question, “If you could play any instrument, what would it be,” I would say

I could say the drums, the guitar, or even the violin but the ability to play just one of these instruments would leave me unfulfilled. The beauty of these instruments is the magic they create when they interact in just the right way. Music has many layers, and as each is stripped away, a new gem appears whether it be the hum of the bass or the steady tick of the drums.

Writing functions in much the same way, and I often measure the success of my work by the quality of its rhythm and flow. Reading aloud is essential for me, for it allows me to hear how harmonious the sentences are with one another and how seamless the transitions are from one paragraph to the next. More importantly, reading aloud allows me to detect the imperfections of my writing; a word that sounds not quite right is like an instrument that hits the wrong note. It disrupts, bringing the progression of the piece to an abrupt halt. When the right word is found, however, the euphony of the writing is restored.

As with music, writing has many moving parts, some of which shine brighter than the rest. These may be a clever use of alliteration, a unique turn of phrase, or a concluding sentence that packs a punch. Whatever it is, it leaves an impression; it affects the reader, prompting them to return to the work again and again just as they would listen to their favorite song on repeat. This is the mark of great writing. This is what distinguishes a writer from a Writer. And the latter is what I hope to be.




Drummer (n): crazy; one who beats things with sticks to make music

“I love to see people laugh and I love it more if I can make them laugh.” – Keith Moon

I could easily say that the instrument that represents me most as a writer is the guitar, because of its versatility. Because it’s a Fender Strat and it’s cherry red and I love it and it sings the blues and some other weird stuff that involves violin strings or finger picking or sliding down the neck seductively. But obviously I’m getting off topic here. Though I would love to say guitar, my response will be the drums. And not just because I love the drums, and want to learn to play them, though that’s part of it. There’s a lesson there about writing, and it basically is that even though I like to drum on my desk, dashboard, lap, and any suitable surface, and feel like I’m pretty good at keeping a beat, there’s always more to learn. We alternate between just keeping the backbeat and doing insane, sweaty drum solos. There are technical drummers and drummers that beat the ever loving crap out of their kits. If I could compare myself to a specific drummer as a writer, it would be Keith Moon of the Who. This guy, the inspiration for “Animal” on The Muppets:



Keith Moon was a crazy man. A crazy, eccentric, often self-destructive, very talented man. He could start quietly with a smirk that did not indicate what was coming, or open with some utterly reckless beats with total disregard for his hi hats or keeping time for the band.  He had fast hands and bug eyes, and liked to play practical jokes on his bandmates like filling his bass drum with dynamite and exploding it on national television after finishing a song, or driving his Rolls Royce into a hotel pool. This is also how I liked to finish my papers, and how I often finish my poems. I like explosions and splashes in writing and songs (sometimes controlled, sometimes not). I like both sneaky planning and reckless disregard, and the hi hats are too boring because who wants to keep time, and who can keep track of those quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes? (Disclaimer: I don’t have many of these qualities or things, including a Rolls Royce or a pool. Think metaphors, brah.)

I like natural. Raw expression. Fluid wrists and mind. Sometimes double or triple-stroke rolls and sometimes you need to bring out the tom-toms because your sticks just aren’t cutting it. Hoping that my hands move as fast as my mental processes often do. Seemingly random, but a method behind all of the madness, even if it’s chaotically methodical. Not all that flashy in the back, but I’m there and loud and won’t be ignored. Sometimes so excited you twirl your sticks in the air, and sometimes you’re so excited you miss a beat. That’s okay, so much of drumming and writing is improvisation. Intense bursts that fill the silence. At the end you dissolve like your drum roll, seeking another song to support, another story to tell with the primal roar that we’ve known since we can bang crap together and make some noise. Language is the same: noise made coherent, made whole.

What’s a Cap & Gown Got to do with it?

I’ve done the literal graduations… college, grad school, and what not. But the question with which I am presented is “what area in life have [I] not graduated from yet?”

I thought about this carefully, pondering my accomplishments. My answer… well, it depends on perception. If I were to ask my mother what else I should “graduate from,” she would advise me to pursue a traditional family life, which includes grandkids for her. This lifestyle is not undesirable for most, but I believe people should also just value being happy in life, no matter what that looks like. The best symbolic graduation includes achieving happiness and being a whole person.

Happiness is a great achievement! And if that’s true, I’m graduating now… I’m content at the moment and there’s nothing major I am pursuing or seeking to graduate from in the near future. At the same time, I’m always at the beginning of a new curriculum. My inner teacher tells me that learning never ends and, therefore, one should never stop trying to graduate from something.

If I ever reach a day when I can say that I have nothing left to do and nothing left to learn, then I have failed. So, for me, graduations mark accomplishments, but they need not be traditional or even measurable, per se. It’s great to have specific goals such as college, career, mortgage, and family; however, regardless of one’s path, people should never stop seeking graduations!

Life has taught me that we’re never “all set.” Life is beautifully unpredictable and, like one of my favorite quotes states, “not all who wander are lost” (Tolkien). So, please, go out and wander and follow your unique paths to the many types of symbolic graduations you can find!