A mentor once told me that there are times in our lives when we are the arrow, flying swift and far. As we get older, we’re more often the bow, holding steady and helping to launch others further than we can see or imagine.
Our parents and families are often our first bow, and perhaps they struggle most with letting us fly far. Then it’s our teachers and mentors who help us focus and take aim.
Frequently, when we’re aiming for a new destination, we forget who helped us soar, and we may not appreciate that they’ll never see what we get to see. Graduations are an opportunity to think about how and where we’ve landed, and who gave us flight.
Sometimes, we feel regret or mixed feelings about the bows in our lives – especially if we’ve traveled far to strike out on our own. We may have had to fight for our chosen path, and feel a sense of independent achievement. But it’s worth remembering that often the greater the tension, the further the flight. And at some point in life, we may experience gratitude even for that tension.
This year, fifteen years after I began my own journey at the University of Vermont, I’ll have the honor of addressing the 2019 graduates of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.
As I walk my dog around campus or after I speak in a class, students sometimes come up to me to say they first saw me speak in a large first-year lecture, that they’re excited I’ll be helping to send them off at their graduation.
And it’s with a profound sense of awe that I realize I’ve become a bit of a fixture in their lives. I never imagined I’d have that level of permanence in a place.
As I prepare to help launch our graduates further and higher than ever, I think of all the bows that helped my arrow fly.
I feel them with me still, holding me steady - with just the right amount of tension.