Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper. (

In 2020, graduations and proms and parties, very special rites of passage in life, have been cancelled because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, families are finding unique ways to celebrate their children’s accomplishments with lawn signs, balloons, parades, etc.

This post was first published in 2017.

mixed media portrait

“On Graduation Day”. Mixed media including XL graphite blocks, acrylics, Neocolor II, acrylic ink, metallic paste on Canson XL – 11 x 15 inch watercolour paper.

I am thinking of all the graduation ceremonies that will be held in June. For many years as a high school teacher, I attended these celebrations.

In the crowd, I saw all the proud faces of the students’ relatives gathered to celebrate this milestone.

I wondered about the path each student would take to find a true calling in life. A few students would travel to Europe for a year or work to fund their studies. A wise decision for the undecided. Most would continue their education at college or university.

Little do they know, on the day they graduate, that the years ahead of them will be the most difficult exam.

Amid the many successes of former students, I have also heard of the formidable struggles…job loss, financial failure, depression, divorce, epic battles with cancer, and lives shattered in so many ways. These life events break my heart.

Feliphe Schiarolli photo.
photo by Feliphe Schiarolli at unsplash.

While painting this woman, I thought of fresh, young faces in my classroom over the years and the promise their futures held.

This one was extremely shy, that one was hoping for an Olympic medal (and did participate in the winter Olympics), while another one always had a joke to tell. Even the bold and disrespectful students come to mind: one former student contacted me on Facebook 15 years later to apologise for his unruly behaviour in my classroom.

My former students are never far from my mind. I often wonder what ever happened to???

Over the years, there have been surprise meetings in grocery stores, at the theatre, in the doctor’s office…so heartwarming to meet former students as adults with their young families and to have a quick catch up chat.

In Forever a Wallflower, (March 2017) and in How do you mend a broken heart? (February 2019), I thought of the awkward moments in high school and all the students I can remember who didn’t fit in.

There are far more outcasts than you might think, especially in a city school.

I wonder what happened to so many of them when they were called to write the most difficult exam.

(Header photo taken by Brett Jordan – a copyright free photo from unsplash).


graphite blocks XL used in mixed media portrait

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