Crossroads and Commencements

By Erik Orton

Alison graduated from high school on Saturday.  She homeschooled from 2nd to 12th grade.  Emily and I organized the graduation ceremony ourselves.  Emily ordered the diploma and we chose a seal that says, “Non scholae sed vitae discimus.”  We do not learn for school, but for life. 

That is the approach we take here at the Awesome Factory.  We strive to not learn for arbitrary reasons or to please someone else.  We learn because learning is valuable for its own sake.  We learn because we are curious.  We learn because it makes us and the world a better place.  As we mark this occasion, a couple things come to mind:

  1. Love of learning is the best outcome of an education
  2. Marking special occasions matters

The first point I’ve believed for a long while.  The second I’m still learning.  I’m realizing the value of celebrating crossroads, acknowledging milestones and pausing to reflect. 

Yesterday Emily and I went on a 9 mile hike with friends.  We had our smart phones, but we weren’t sure GPS would work deep in the woods, so we also carried paper maps. As we used our paper maps, it was a good reminder how to find our place in the world when we don’t have satellites feeding us precise longitude and latitude.  I think life is a lot more like that. 

Hiking along the Appalachian Trail, we intersected with several other trails.

Hiking along the Appalachian Trail, we intersected with several other trails.

Ironically, it was when we were at the cross roads that we knew exactly where we were.  We could look at the map and say, “This intersects with this.  We’re right here.”  Most of the time, we knew we were somewhere along the winding line that marked the trail, putting one foot in front of the other.  But then we would come to a landmark or crossroad.  At a crossroad you know where you are, and you choose where you will go next.  It is the nexus of certainty and uncertainty.  You arrive to a certain point then proceed into uncertainty.  More than ever I feel the need to place mile markers, acknowledge moments of culmination and commencement.  That is how I know how far we’ve come. 

It was a treat for me to look back over Alison’s last 18 years and squeeze a bit of it into just a few minutes.  I’m so proud of her love of learning and--rather than building a life to please someone else--choosing a life meaningful to her.

Here is Alison at a crossroad and commencement:

Thanks to The Decembrists for the music:  "Sons and Daughters"  © The Decemberists