“There’s a way not to be broken that takes brokenness to find it.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

We fanned our programs left to right, forward and back, with the flick of a wrist to keep the air moving across our sweaty faces,

As the 17- and 18-year olds took to the stage at the far end of the sports arena.

One by one, their names were announced with solemnity by their Vice Principal, who only paused once for water as he moved from A to Z.

They walked in Van’s and heels, Chucks and Chacos, loafers and Crocs, called forth to The Next, called forth to Be-Come.

As I tried to catch a bit of breeze from my ex-husband’s program which he fanned next to me, I couldn’t help but think how each of the graduates will suffer terribly.

Maybe not soon. Maybe tomorrow.

There will be a moment of wrenching loss, a period of bleak desolation, a shock of painful honesty.

Break! — we dare of them. Break because it is the only way forward.

(And all of the geometry in the world, every last band concert and hall pass and smear of lip gloss will not save you from it.)

Break! — we try to warn them. Break because it is inevitable.

(And the best college or the fiercest military service, that mundane cubicle job or the trip into the disappearing rain forest will not change that. Staying single or placing your bets on a polyamorous post-post modern world will not change that. Gluten free or meat and potatoes will not change that.)

Break! — we hum from our own broken hearts. Break because it is freeing.

In the cracks, you’ll discover another layer of yourself and yet another below that.

In the cracks, you’ll mine the gold of your own Self, that person who is so much more intricate than school has ever hinted at.

You’ll discover a golden hue more rapturous than any revealed by your art teachers,

an element that may bear the atomic table number 79 but that is far rarer than your chemistry teacher suggested

a vein so unfathomably deep, it would make any of the California miners you encountered in 10th grade gape.

Break open and you will be illuminated in ways that the sweat on your brow and the arena’s overhead lights on this humid May evening can only whisper is possible.