Stepping out into the world of tomorrow
- Credit: PA
As she watches her son graduate, Rachel Moore reflects on the path ahead for him.
A procession of beaming young people strode down the aisle of one of the nation's most magnificent cathedrals to rapturous applause.
Joy, pride, relief, hope and excitement mixed into one of those atmospheres you long to bottle. A snapshot of such palpable positivity and elation in the moment a feeling and experience never to be repeated.
Pews of parents and grandparents on their feet celebrating not only the academic achievements of their young people, but their transition to adulthood.
Those nervous teenagers deposited in a strange city so far from home three years ago, were bursting out into the bright summer sunshine as adults ready to take on the world, to make their contribution.
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They were reminded by their vice-chancellor that they were graduating from the university with the best graduate employability rates in the country, go grab what life has to offer
Outside, with uncharacteristic Durham sunshine lasering the Romanesque architecture of the Cathedral, electric happiness was all around; it was as perfect a parental moment as you can have.
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Hugging my son, beside myself with pride at how my introverted cautious two year old who caused me such worry that he would never be sociable had grown into six foot of confidence, ebulliance and popularity, words of some other parents swum back into my head.
'Why are you letting him study history? Where's that going to get him?'
There's a view, an entirely fair view, that only vocational is the way forward and 'worth the money.' I get that. Engineering, medicine and law lead somewhere. It's clear why studying something on a clear pathway to a life of work makes sense.
But not everyone knows what he or she wants to sign up for life for at 18. My son's working life will be longer than ever.
If I had any influence on his future now, it would be to wish him the privilege of doing something he loves, that makes a difference, that's not a chore to face every day.
Learning for learning's sake and doing what you love might sound frivolous, but spending a working life miserable is far worse.
Many of his friends have hated their degrees, enduring the study because they were chasing the career that qualification might bring. A means to an end. Fair enough.
But there's no guarantee that the pot is at the end of the rainbow and a career on paper might look lucrative and full of promise – and it's a relief to snare a graduate job, so some are tempted to take anything - but it could be nine hours a day of drudgery and dullness.
Forty years of nine hours a day endurance for the sake a decent salary is a hell of a miserable marathon and one I'd wish on no 21-year-old.
My son feels privileged that he has loved his degree subject, enjoyed his work, the inspiration of his lecturers and wouldn't have had it any other way.
Because he loved it, he never missed a contact hour, a deadline or asked for an extension for a piece of work so was a model student, and a potential model employee.
That's also the influence of paying for your degree yourself – you're paying for the best, you expect the best and give your best.
My son's degree cost him in loans about £46,500, topped up by parental contributions. But it doesn't faze him.
It's not a 'debt' as we know debt; it's a graduate contribution.
He has always worked in the holidays for his extras, so he's had his taste of the real world alongside an immersion in academia.
Because he's enjoyed his subject so much, he embraced the whole university experience too, which has shaped the young adult he is as much, if not more than, his subject.
He's captained sports teams, organised events as social secretary of sports teams, volunteered with people with learning difficulties (initially doled out as a punishment by his college but an experience he relished) and thrown himself into student journalism.
Spending time with my son, his friends and their parents this week, their view of the world has been revealed to be very different to ours at their age 30 years ago.
They're unbothered by acquisition or owning homes and stuff. They want money, but want it to pay for experiences, lifestyles and travel. They've seen their parents shackled to mortgages, encumbered by possessions and they don't want that.
They also doubt they will have children, or marry. They have choices and want to live their lives differently.
They see the world as small. Their future can be anywhere they want it to be. They're furious about Brexit, dismayed by their country's politics and disillusioned, with every right.
My wish for them all is to be happy and to make the most of the chances ahead.
They've proved they can work hard, are bright and motivated.
I wish them the awareness that they are gifted and lucky, and to use that ability to help people who are not so.
This week has been all about them, but their life isn't.
They've had the privilege to make a difference – now they need to go and do it.