Dr. Grauer's Column - The Spark
Matriculation 2021: The Spark
Maybe someday I’ll be able to give 200-word speeches this good:
"You’re here at Grauer to witness a matriculation; a rite of passage into this concept we call adulthood. While we matriculate, we should also take a moment to pay attention to our younger selves. I’m not sure why we put all of this pressure on children to grow up. We’re always telling them that things will be different when you grow up, that they need to prepare for the outside world. And sure, we do need to prepare, but we shouldn't give up our inner child just yet. Every time we look in the mirror we can see ourselves when we were young, and you sometimes forget that childhood ever happened. I never want to lose the spark that makes me laugh like a maniac when my friends joke to me, the urge that causes me to see how fast I can run in my new shoes. I never want to lose the people by my side. I never want to lose my inner child. And this ceremony is all about moving on, moving forward from the past; and I am so honored to be at this school, at this point in my life, where I’m allowed to let my inner child laugh and play, where I can share my gift, my music, with others. I am so excited to spend the next chapter of my life at high school here. Thank you."
- 9th Grade Grauer Student Kate Z. '25, representing the Class of 2025
And thank you, Kate, for this wisdom!
Freshman class, if you were growing up in the Apache tribe in the southern United States, and you were a girl, on the Fourth of July of your year reaching puberty, you might partake in four-days of grueling ceremonial tasks geared to prepare you for the trials of womanhood. On your fourth and final day, you would dance in ceremony throughout the night with no sleep and only a small bite of food. [Check out the short film, “Apache Girl’s Rite of Passage,” for some visuals of that rite of passage ceremony.]
Ceremonies like the Apache are age-old and world-wide. They seem to be universal and a part of being human.
When we were on our school visiting trip to Tanzania a few years ago, we passed by some 13-year-old boys setting out on their rite of passage trial, into warriorship. Maasai have a ritual ceremony called Eunoto, where their boys face challenges like the ritual sacrifice of an ox, or lion hunting.
What I love about all the visions of the great rite of passage trials is the pure adventure they put us through at the time of passage out of childhood. These experiences are exhilarating but Kate explains that what is unexpected about them is not just that they jar us out of old concepts of being a kid, they “jar us out of what it means to be grown up.” Coming of age does not mean you forget your “spark”, as Kate calls it. It means you are even more in touch with it, and are learning to use it well.
Matriculation into high school at Grauer is a time to acknowledge the coming of age, and then to celebrate that spark: call it adventure, call it courage, call it energy. We celebrate that spark.
If you are from our part of the world, San Diego, you may have been to Bat Mitzvas or Quinceañera ceremonies for Jewish or Mexican girls coming of age. Coming of age is the time for asking, “Who am I?” or better yet to proclaim, “This is who I am!” Or, in the Jewish Bar Mitzvas, “Today I am a man!”
You cannot come of age just by turning an age. You can only do this after you have been through real trials, trials that have made you search your soul for the spark that stirs you. And to go through the passage means not only that you have that spark, but that you share it, and that you ultimately recognize the most important thing you can recognize: This is what the world needs this of me!
Maybe you can’t bring a skinned ox to the fire pit, but you'll find something. If you are not Apache or Maasai, middle school has been a passage, sometimes frightening or painful. Grauer School matriculates have just completed that passage, travelling far and wide with their class and teachers. Now they are setting out upon high school, I think the most formative time of our lives.
Our matriculates just completed their first high school Mastery Learning Day. Rather than being responsible for a given assignment, we are saying to these students: “You are responsible for mastery of an entire quarter of work--every piece of work in it.” That’s the scholastic piece. You are equally responsible for knowing what universal life values you have embodied with your achievements this quarter. Were you courageous? Prove it! Were you compassionate? Prove it! That’s the character piece. While this is no lion hunt, it most certainly is a passage to get through.
To our freshmen, entering independence, I say: Your talent is rising. Your personal spark is a natural resource beneath the ground, and it is there for you alone. It wants to be discovered and ignited. Those metal detectors people use on the beach to find coins won’t work. It’s already in you.
Igniting your true-life callings are the point of high school. If you find that thing that you love, that thing that you know is “right” when you are doing it, you are in your element. And keep listening for more such callings, the next bigger calling. Joseph Campbell says:
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us!”
Before you find that, expect 10,000 failures, 10,000 rejections, 10,000 hours of practicing something, 10,000 days. That’s okay. You don’t need to hurry your calling. It is patient like all great teachers, and it will be there when you are really ready.
So many people are afraid to listen! They stay small. Your fears and hang-ups keep you small. Fear is anything that tries to stop you from following that bliss.
Ninth graders: You can bank on us, even if you try something and it does not work. We’ve got your back. If your friend drops you, we’ve got this. If your song tanks, we’ll sing along, or if your team loses, we‘re still on your team. Most important, if my own life is any indicator, you will be in these trials your whole life. Remember to do enough of it in ceremony, and in community, and this sense of adventure and passage will remain with you.
We want you to go for it, to try a few things. We want ignition, and in four years the world is going to look like a big piece of cake, the oyster, the enchilada. You will be celebrating what you are starting this very day. We will see the spark in your eyes. We will be there, applauding.
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