Schools are starting to officially cancel classroom learning for the rest of the academic year. More (if not all) will undoubtedly follow. That means a lot of plans, events, and ceremonies, including graduation, are also getting canceled.
Sports clubs, coaches, and players who were hanging on to see if they could eke out a little season are starting to realize that it’s over. Grand end-of-the-year plans are being severely adjusted. Sweet sixteens, bar/bat mitzvahs, and even weddings are becoming Zoom meetings if anything at all.
So now what? If celebrations can’t happen meaningfully, what happens to your memory of the milestone? Does a lack of formal ceremony skew your feeling of the whole experience?
Commemorate vs. Celebrate
I graduated from High School a LONG time ago. I remember the school ceremony, the class party the night before (at least until midnight and then it gets really blurry), and the family get-together….but nothing with great detail. What I remember most is the thesaurus.
My father gave me a Roget’s thesaurus as a graduation gift. It wasn’t a special edition or signed by anyone famous—just the same hardcover book you could get today at Barnes and Noble for $17.80. My father inscribed the front cover with a beautiful dedication to my future as a writer and a lover of words. It spoke to my accomplishing the milestone and the bright future ahead. It meant the world to me, and I still have it to this day.
When we commemorate a special occasion, we are essentially placing a mental bookmark on an experience, thereby making it easier to remember it in the future. The photos, videos and other forms of memorabilia from those occasions serve as triggers that we can use to re-live those pleasant experiences in the future.
The ceremony itself doesn’t have to be the commemoration. There can be something equally meaningful, yet longer lasting.
Gifts vs. Experiences
I am sure you’ve heard the prevailing wisdom that is that it’s better to spend your money on experiences than on material things. Experiences are always remembered while the enthusiasm for “things” fades almost as soon as you get them home. However, in Celebrate or Commemorate? Erica Ebsorth-Goold broke down some research with a slightly different take.
The researchers conclude that material goods, when purchased to mark an important life event, can provide a stronger connection to the event than an experience, the memories of which will naturally fade over time.
It’s why the thesaurus means so much to me. It is the physical representation of my graduation – reminding me of the feelings of the time. I don’t think about the events, I think about the happiness, the pride, and the optimism I felt when I received that gift. It is a special piece of memorabilia about my personal journey.
The researchers stress their findings don’t mean you should skip celebrations for stuff; rather, one should consider marking major life events with something permanent.
There are many milestones that are about to pass without the traditional ceremony. In addition to High School – college, middle, and even elementary school graduations are also a big deal to those looking forward to the passage. Every sports season represents an accomplishment. Scouts bridge to the next level. Musicians complete the concert. Artists have their big shows. Employees get promotions.
In this environment it’s important to find the commemoration – the thing – that can recognize the milestone. It doesn’t have to be expensive or large or surrounded by balloons. It just needs to be heartfelt, representative, and long lasting. In fact, if the gift can include a nostalgic element such as a graduation tassel, scout badge, varsity letter, or piece of final music, then you have truly captured the essence of the milestone and created memorabilia.
Add that to whatever celebration can be managed – the virtual parties, the drive-by parades, or the quarantine cupcakes – and the feeling of the accomplishment can be preserved for a lifetime, forever triggered by seeing the thing.
Finally, this year, no matter what you are commemorating, don’t get hung up on the finality of it all….even if it’s graduation. You are, after all, marking the completion of 4 years of High School, not just the final 6 months. In Why it’s important to celebrate, Fran Sorin says
It’s important to honor the journey for simply having happened.
You can do that by creating your memorabilia gift – your thesaurus – your special thing. Then, decide on your modified celebration, and don’t let the change in plans change the moment. In twenty years they will remember what they felt…not what they missed.
LTD Moments makes commemorative framed products that celebrate milestones in athletics and other activities. Our products make excellent graduation gifts.
See senior gift options – available for any sport or activity.