I graduated massage school this week. I was asked to give a speech at the graduation.
So here is what I said on Saturday, August 16th, 2008. Three minutes and fifty-two seconds.
I have never attended one of my own graduations before. Primary, secondary, high school. None. College. None. Confirmation of neither graduate nor postgraduate degrees ever moved me to attend a graduation. Never have I desired to attend a graduation. Not until today.
Twenty-six years. That is how long I have waited to arrive at this point. While some of these students have seen the ink barely dry on their GEDs, some of us have had one, two or even three careers before coming to this point. For some, this has been a dream a long time coming.
In my case, I had spent a quarter century in public service as a social worker and, then professor and teacher. As an eighteen year old I sat with my wife dreaming about when we would have a practice together, a holistic center, not knowing what our roles would be, but knowing what we wanted to do there. Then came work and children. Actually, children first. I got degree after degree as they became useful or increased my income or opportunity. But none did I want for the sake of my soul.
And so, twenty-five years later, by a fortunate turn, by hard work, by the grace of my wife, who, without doubt or exception, is the single most incredible woman this Earth has ever been graced to see, I was able to enroll, finally, in a program that, in her words, made my heart sing. The thought of practicing massage therapy did make my heart sing. So I cast my die, said goodbye to teaching and picked up study instead. I set my sights to get through this program. That was it. The first day I was asked who I was and to tell a bit about myself. I answered thus. I am asocial, not terribly nice and I am here to learn. Leave me alone. My classmates may agree with me, depending on who you ask.
A year later. Twenty-six years total waiting, and I am a hair’s breadth from working with my wife in our own practice. A dream we have had for more than half our lives. I am of more use than I have ever felt, more settled in my body than I have ever been and, closer to realizing our dream than ever before.
Further, I have discovered an interest in and have been exploring indigenous and shamanic bodywork practices and plan to continue studying and using then in my practice. Why? Because it is healing for me. Because I believe it healing for my clients. Because it makes my heart sing.
Now, each day I wake I can look forward to a short ride down the street, to being with my wife in a practice we dreamed about for so long and so long ago. That is what the last year has brought. That is what this school has helped bring to me. It is now up to me to take this and do something grand. Something that makes my heart sing.
I suggest you all do the same.
My wife referred to it, over and over, as the white trash show. Tears were flowing everywhere. There was hooting and hollering. I was congratulated, by Craig for the skillful way I kept my eyes from rolling. Lee and Craig kept each other company, and sane, during the proceedings.
I was called to speak. Before I could I had to remove the box of tissues from on top of the lectern as I could not be seen behind it. Jennifer was not there, which emptied part of the meaning of the graduation for me, but I would read the part written for her anyway. I owe her that much, at the very least.
I spoke. But so did anyone else who wanted to and at great length. One kept referring to palpation but defining palpitation. Still, I am not sure what either was doing as the topic of a graduations speech. The last speaker was autistic. I am not sure what she said but it involved quite a bit of breathing.
There was theme music. “Brother Can you Spare a Dime” and “I Got Plenty of Nothing.” That is still beyond my ken. The owner of the school gave us each an extended Christian tract.
Midway through I left the students and joined my wife. The entire affair took nearly two hours.
Afterwards, I had a beer.