Transitions: Graduation

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March 29, 2023
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April 12, 2023

Transitions: Graduation

This post is the second in the series, Transitions. The first post focused on the transition of Spring.

Transitions: Graduation = Launching 

Graduation is when the diving board has bent to its lowest point with the energy to launch you up and out. In this moment there are options. You can dive in or bend your knees to absorb the energy and stop action. Some people are ready to dive into the pool and swim away. This is not the only option. You could also go back down the ladder, or sit on the board and jump in gently, have a coach come and help, or for the biggest splash – cannonball. Sometimes people fall in and need help. What doesn’t work so well is staying on the board; it is an in between place, not a destination.  

Getting Stuck

How do people end up stuck on the diving board? One possibility is that they stay too long thinking about the past. I have seen this most often when the person feels they didn’t do well enough or weren’t treated well enough. If only things had been different. I knew one talented teen who saw themselves as a complete failure when they did not graduate with honors. We can support ourselves and our graduates when we realize that the goal is learning, not perfection.  

Another way people get stuck is by stopping to plan out turn by turn directions for an idealized future. They are so sure that if they do not make the first move correctly, that all else will be ruined. The reality is that there is no perfect first step. You can climb back down the ladder and go for a jog instead. Your life will then be different, not ruined. It is likely that your life will best fit you if you do the thing that feels most right to you as the first step. Dive in or climb down and get some lessons. Doing what makes the most sense for you now creates momentum. 

'That's a fail.'

See “failure” as data. What do you want to be when you grow up? We ask and answer this question with so little real information to go on. As you do the new things, you will discover that there are aspects of it you don’t like even a little bit or that you really aren’t good at. This is not failure; this is continued learning, part of expanding your knowledge base. As you learn more, you can make changes and adjustments to help you move in a direction that suits you. 


Expect it to be awkward. Once you get going there are likely to be times when you feel unsure, awkward, or somewhat overwhelmed. This is normal in a new venture and is a sign that you are in a time of learning and growth. A diploma proves that you learned the skills and abilities needed to earn it; however, your new path will require additional skills. College is not the same as high school, and the working world is not the same as either one. Take breaks from time to time as you are on a learning curve.  

All the Feelings

It helps to acknowledge all the emotions. Graduation is a time of double or triple dip feelings. Just like an ice cream cone with scoops of strawberry, mint chocolate chip, and pistachio there are likely to be many emotions that don’t necessarily go together. Delight in being done, trepidation of the future, sadness at saying goodbye, and more. Taking time to process the emotions may clear some obstacles to moving forward.  

Find Coaches You Can Trust

In college, the diving coach gave me one instruction: straighten when he said, NOW. I heard him but thought he had the timing wrong, so I hesitated. I belly flopped from the high dive. It was an effort to swim to the ladder. I took a break and tried again. That time I acted immediately resulting in a perfect double back flip. Exhilarating. Expert advice is invaluable. It can be hard to trust people but when you are ready, and have a good coach, listen. I had all the skills needed and had seen him coach others to success. Finding others to learn from, or with, accelerates growth.  

Launching is hard and it won’t be perfect. Once you get to the top of the diving board it is wonderful to take a moment to notice how far you have come and how you are feeling about it. And then it is time to launch. Know that there is not one perfect next step. What is most important is that you keep learning as you take steps toward a life that works for you, adjusting as you go.  


Laura A. Gaines

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