Graduation

In the U.S., May is the month of graduation. In the Netherlnds, high school students are currently in the midst of their final exams, which will determine whether they will graduate or not. I still have nightmares about final exams, even though I graduated grammar school with above-average grades in 2005.

As Ginny Marie points out in her spin cycle prompt for this week, graduations can mean many things. People can graduate from preschool, elementary school, high school or college, but they can also graduate from certain life events or habits. For me, high school graduation marked my graduation from pretending to be normal. Two weeks before the graduation ceremony, with me already having had my final exams, I E-mailed the student counselor to let her know I wasn’t going to Radboud University to study English after all, but was instead going to my country’s blindness rehabilitation center.

The high school graduation ceremony was okay. The principal had planned a lot of pooha about how great my school had been to accept a blind student – I was the first and so far only blind student at this school – and how wonderfully they’d helped me graduate. When I heard of these plans, I was pissed. I argued that I didn’t want to be singled out. This was one reason for my objection. Another was the fact that grammar school had been a bad experience right from the start. In September of 1999, I wrote in my diary that I knew I’d rather graduate a grammar school in six years than a low-level special education high school in four. I don’t know how much of that was truly wanting to, and how much was needing to in order to please my parents.

High school graduation marked my graduation from doing what my parents and teachers wanted me to, which was (or seemed to be) pretending my invisible disabilities didn’t exist. Even though it was my high school tutor who had arranged the initial intake interview at blindness rehab, he half assumed these people could push me to go to college better than he could. In reality, they ended up recommending the basic rehab program. My parents were initially not amused, because the program lasted only four months, but they eventually accepted that I needed to work on myself first before going to university.

Even though I graduated from parent and teacher-pleasing, I didn’t graduate from dependence. Till far into my stay at the acute ward in 2008, I did just do what my social worker or doctor wanted me to. Even though this lessened a bit when I got to the resocialization ward in 2009, I’m now at once at the opposite end of the pendulum, defying my staff constantly, and at once I’m still dependent on them. I ultimately end up doing what they want me to, after all.

Now I know that no-one is truly independent. Then again, parent/child relationships, schools and institutions instill more dependence on the child, student or patient than does ordinary adult life. Next year, it’ll have been ten years since my high school graduation. Will I move towards true interdependence then?

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9 thoughts on “Graduation

  1. My high school graduation was almost 15 years ago – that blows my mind! My daughter will be graduating preschool in a few weeks – it’s actually the same day that my son turns two.
    I feel like I’m going to sob – then and even right now.
    I love all of Ginny’s spin cycle prompts. I haven’t gotten to her blog yet today so this is a nice preview of what to write about.

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  2. Astrid, You graduated from one institution to a lower level institution. So you are moving in the right direction towards full independence, if that is what your aiming for. You are right though. Graduating means different things for different people.

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  3. I graduated from uni almost 20 years ago, which makes me feel very old indeed! I still have a hard to time of thinking about preschoolers graduating – maybe that’s showing my age.

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  4. I agree with Ginny, what a thoughtful and beautifully written post! I’m sorry your principal had such a lack of understanding. I suspect he was well-intentioned, but just didn’t get it. I think you’ve graduated to independence beautifully!

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  5. Congratulations on your determination to become even more independent. I know many sighted individuals that lack that determination. Great thought provoking post.

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