Life is a series of graduations. Not like cap-and-gown graduations but rather of moving from one chapter of a story to the next. High school graduation, though, is a great analogy to use with people who are in the midst of transition or (better yet) pre-transition from one phase to the next.
The goal of a pre-schooler is to get to school – to ride the big yellow school bus. Next, to get to middle or junior high school. Then to high school. Then to trade school, college, a job right out of high school, or basic training in the military, oftentimes. Then on to the next phase and so on. It’s all preparation for whatever the NBT (next big thing) is.
Let’s examine high school for a moment. Four years. Allegedly, the best years of your life. What nobody tells you (because many adults don’t know) is that adolescence is some of the hardest stuff you’ll ever experience. Why is that? (not that they don’t tell you, but what makes it so hard?) Because the human brain is not fully formed yet. A little tidbit I learned in my Masters’ program. That’s why adolescents are often moody, don’t know how to explain how they feel, and do dumber stuff with their so-called friends than they would ever do alone.
Regardless, the high school analogy. Most people enter into high school with some small inkling of knowing what they’re about. Or what they think they’re about. Interests (academic and extracurricular) may be formed early on. A student does not generally decide his or her senior year on clubs he or she wants to join or what activities in which he or she chooses to participate unless that student is simply looking at padding the student’s college applications. Likewise, the student does not generally wait for graduation day to choose his or her direction in life, whether a calling or a vocation.
And one does not wait until completing college to determine one’s major. First off, with the specificity of degree requirements within each major, it’s completely impossible to do. Most college and universities offer a “General Studies” or “Undecided” major for a year or so, but discourage going too long without selecting something for the long haul. Why? It’s not that they don’t want our money. It’s about SMART goals. You know… Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound. So, selecting a major is a SMART goal. Who knew?
So, I’m in the field of addictions and use the “high school graduation” analogy with regard to treatment. Eventually, the goal is to “graduate” all of the clients out of the program. Based on why they present to treatment, they may expect as few groups as once a week for 10 weeks to as many as 3 times a week (starting out) for up to a year. Rarely more. The goal of treatment is to for the client to better him or herself; to grow in understanding, relationship, and coping skills; and learn tools to aid in maintaining the sobriety that has been started.
One of those skills is the development and maintenance of deep and lasting friendships. Why is this important? Because, eventually we won’t be in groups with our friends in recovery any more. The reality, sadly, is that many will be dead within 3-5 years. But to allow ourselves to feel – and to share the joys and pains with others – is to truly live. And our goal, our ultimate goal, is to graduate life. With honors.
From what phase are you expecting to graduate? Where are you going next and who is going with you?