Thursday, May 20, 2010

An elementary school graduation address to the class of 2016

Dear Sixth Graders:

So much attention is paid this time of year to high school and college graduations that your important transition from elementary to middle school is often overlooked. Yet this may very well be the most significant transition you will make during your school years.

Yours is the class who grew from Teletubbies to SpongeBob to YouTube. You now find yourselves at the halfway point; six years of school under your belt, and six more years to go. You may have seen the large headline on the front of Monday’s paper that read “Shining Stars: The Herald-Times salutes those high school seniors who are the best and brightest hope for our future.” You may wonder what you can do in the next six years to achieve such an elite distinction bestowed upon only one-half of 1 percent of your class.

This is the time of the year when outstanding students are honored. I don’t diminish their hard work and accomplishments at all. But at the risk of sounding cliche, I would like to present the idea that each and every one of you is a star. No exceptions. Our culture has this thing about identifying stars who stand out above the rest. We have this habit of separating and dividing ourselves into categories. You can certainly see this in our politics right now, and it’s an unfortunate reality in the academic world, too.

I invite you to take a moment at this halfway point to look at yourself and see your unique star quality. Each of us has gifts; by now, yours are probably starting to emerge. What activities bring you the most joy? What can you do well that feels effortless? What projects and creations do you enjoy sharing with others? Do you ever get so immersed in something that you lose track of time?

These are your clues. That secret something you have to contribute to the world is not outside of you, waiting to be discovered. It’s in you, and it has been since the day you were born.

Middle school can be crazy. Emotions and hormones run high. I remember my own middle school experience. Each morning, the entire student body gathered in the gymnasium before the first bell rang, and a fist fight broke out 90 percent of the time. Everyone would gather around to watch until the principal intervened to break up the fight. The reality of middle school can be raw and scary.

But you have your inner compass. Use it to help you navigate these rough waters. It will always help you find your true north. The sooner you claim your compass and learn how to use it, the better.

Life seems to run in cycles. Sometimes you feel like you are climbing up a big hill. You may enjoy a brief time at the top. Then you begin to fall down the hill, either joyfully or fearfully, or a combination of the two. You may stay at the bottom for awhile. Then you gather yourself to climb the hill again. But this time it’s a different hill, because you have the experience of the previous hill behind you.

Elementary school is rapidly becoming the hill behind you. Gather your friends and fasten your seat belts. Your parents, teachers and community are rooting for you. I wish you all the best as you prepare for the next phase of your school career.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Long journey through College Mall ends in double rainbow

Monday evening I was trying to maintain a sour mood when a double rainbow ruined my plans.

I had grown tired of seeing the hole in my husband’s back pocket worn through by his wallet, so we piled in the car and headed to the College Mall to find him some new jeans.

It was a beautiful evening — a welcome respite from all the rain — and I was second-guessing myself about spending time in the artificial, windowless environment otherwise known as the mall.

But I persisted, Macy’s coupon card in hand, strolling past the pedicure place with the heavenly massage chairs that called me like a siren’s song, past the food court, mostly empty on this night, past the video game store with boys staring at video screens while punching control pads like rats in a psychology experiment, past the barking puppy in the pet store who was about to be fed, causing me to wonder if they display the puppies in those stark cages so you feel sorry for them and want to buy them, past the Deb store, no longer displaying prom dresses in the window, much to my daughter’s dismay as she was hoping to find one to wear to her sixth grade dance next week (she wants to make an impression), past the kiosk that sells colorful cell phone face plates to suit every personality — I was especially drawn to the one with a rendering of Capt. Jack Sparrow — past the shoe store with multi-colored Chuck Taylors on display in a pyramid formation, past (yes, we took the long way) the Japanese massage place, which oozed Zen more so than usual, past the store formerly known as Kirlin’s Hallmark, strangely gone after so many years in its corner location, past the ultra-bright Pink store, and finally to the white star on a red background also known as Macy’s.

Shopping for jeans with my husband is an anti-climactic affair. He knows his size, and he knows his style. He tries them on to confirm the fit, and he’s done. He wasn’t tempted by the pink-striped dress shirts or the pastel checkered Bermuda shorts on display near the checkout counter. He just paid for the jeans and was ready to go.

On our reverse journey, we picked up some subs (an evening off from cooking was my perk for the excursion). As we finished our meal, we were surprised to hear rain hitting the dome over the food court. We approached the exit and saw it was indeed pouring outside. We decided to wait out the rain for a few minutes, and soon, the sun was shining again. The conditions were right for a rainbow. And sure enough, it was there: a glorious double rainbow — two complete arcs over the Target store, a vivid inner arc with a more faded outer one. Several people gathered to take in the sight. We agreed it was the best rainbow any of us had seen in years. I snapped a photo and promptly uploaded it to Facebook. Soon photos of the rainbow from all across town appeared.

Maybe the rainbow was of the secular variety, marking the grand opening of Target’s expanded grocery section. Or maybe it was a sacred welcome rainbow for the Dalai Lama’s upcoming visit. Or maybe this rainbow was an early Mother’s Day gift. Whatever the message, it lifted my mood and gave me something to write about. And for that, I am grateful.

Kim Evans is a Bloomington native and IU graduate who moved back to Bloomington in 2005 to open her graphic design studio, raise her family and circle back to her writing. She can be reached at