Graduation Day: A Celebration And Sad Reminder

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Beverly Hills High School, Graduation Day 2015

If you’re someone like me who tried to have kids and couldn’t, there are times in life that can be sad reminders. For most child-free women, it’s probably Mother’s Day: an emotionally tough day for those of us who will never have children of our own to celebrate us.

I can get through Mother’s Day because I still have my mom to celebrate. The brunches and lunches, activities and outings, keep my mind off anything remotely self-pitying. Since I’m her only child, I make sure the day is filled with love and distractions galore.

No, the day that absolutely kills me is Graduation Day. That’s the day I really feel my childlessness.

For several years, I’ve lived within walking distance to my high school, which means for several years I’ve also been within earshot of graduation rehearsal and ceremonies. Every June the entire neighborhood is treated to the sounds of a booming P.A. system, soaring music, lofty commencement speeches, and the long reading of student graduate names.

It’s lovely and joyful, and depressing as hell. So much so that I have to hide out at the local Starbucks until it’s over.

You see, every time I hear the strains of Pomp and Circumstance coming from the front lawn of my high school, my heartstrings pull, and I’m painfully reminded of the kids I forgot to have. Well, maybe not “forgot,” more like waited too long to have. Those opening notes aren’t music to my ears; they’re tones of regret and shame for not taking my biological clock more seriously.

I spoke about this several months ago in a blog post entitled “Oh My God, I Forgot To Have A Baby!” If you missed it, here’s a recap of what I went through to get pregnant:

Six IUIs with donor sperm, three rounds of IVF, two embryo transfers using donor eggs, and lots of timed intercourse with a boyfriend who tried, but couldn’t knock me up. I got started at 43, and ended my quest four years later with no money, eggs, or time left on the clock. Game over.

But once the post game pity party was over, I started healing. Onwards! I said to myself. Even though I was single, I still had other worthy pursuits to keep my life full: a busy career, an active social life, and good friends and family. Then, three years after saying goodbye to motherhood, I said hello to marriage. Getting married for the first time at 50 not only gave my life unexpected dimension and purpose, it helped me ease the pain.

I continue to work hard to make peace with my past, and bring closure to that chapter of my life. It’s not easy sometimes, but I do my best to take the long view; to gracefully accept what was, and appreciate what is now.

It’s true what they say about one door closing and another one opening: you find opportunity. It may not look like what you planned or wanted, but hey, it’s an open door, so why not walk through it?

Not long after the baby door closed, the volunteering door swung wide open. I walked through it, and guess what? I found opportunity – to give of myself and be of service to others.

Last year, I joined my husband Robby as a Special Olympics coach (he’s been coaching for 30 years); and after a several year hiatus, I rejoined the Fulfillment Fund mentoring organization to become a mentor to a 14-year-old girl named Melissa.

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Global Education Academy, Graduation Day 2015

Already, my mentee Melissa and I have established a unique relationship. We talk, we bond, we teach each other things and learn about the world together. I like to think we both have a bright future ahead of us.

You want unexpected dimension and purpose to your life? Try volunteering. It’s THE greatest thing you can do, especially if you don’t have kids of your own.

Last week, I attended Melissa’s eighth grade graduation from Global Education Academy, a bilingual school located in South Central Los Angeles. It had everything you’d expect in a graduation: a booming P.A. system, soaring music, lofty commencement speeches, and a long reading of student graduates.

Come to think of it, it was just like a Beverly High graduation, but much better.

Because when I heard the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, and saw the processional of young students in their cap and gowns, it pulled at my heartstrings in a lovely and joyful way that didn’t have me running to the nearest Starbucks.

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Melissa the graduate with her proud mentor.

Graduation Day is no longer a sad reminder of my past, but a celebration of everything yet to come.