The other week the seniors that I work with graduated from high school. So I went to their ceremony, because when you work with a high school student on their homework and college essays and scholarship essays, you feel vested in their success.
It was a graduation ceremony, filled with awkward moments, speeches that no one listened to, and deafening cheers as the students received their diplomas.
Part of what makes these communal rites important comes from their basis in shared experience. Many people graduate from something, making the ceremony an experience shared across time and space. Watching the students, I remembered my own graduation almost 10 years ago in an entirely different city. But this graduation was much more exciting and happy, marked only by the general bittersweet aura of finishing something you’ve spent a significant portion of your life working toward.
And that’s the thing about shared experiences. As similar as the overall experience is, each instance is unique.
Often, the unique aspect of communal experiences gets overlooked or minimized, diminishing the value of the shared experience. Your graduation may have been like mine, marked by the recent death of a classmate, or it could have been like this one, marked only by the small sorrow of moving on to the next life stage. Or maybe your graduation experience was marked by something else entirely. Or maybe you’re looking forward to a graduation, and you don’t yet know what will mark it. But you probably have an experience with graduation, your story to share when the topic comes up.
And the sharing of your story makes the shared experiences important.