Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Graduating to Adulthood

Yesterday marked 27 years with my Employer, a fact they'd only be aware of if I brought it up.  I didn't bother.  They would've nodded, then asked why I brought it up. This would've been followed by the "no money for even cost of living raises" speech.  At my salary level, 2% of next to nothing isn't worth much these days.

Yesterday was one of those days where instead of celebrating surviving the same job for so many years, I found myself contemplating a career change. The mood of my senior citizens was varying degrees of annoyance, which they happily passed on to me, their Mother Confessor/Public Servant Punching Bag. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when one of them asked, "So, how long until you retire?"


After the seniors had gone for the day, I took a break to read the news online.  I found an article encouraging people to "Google" him/herself, not for vanity sake, but to see if your name was attached to something you were unaware of and might want to fix.  They even provided a site called Duck Duck Go  which doesn't track you.  The theory was using Google or Bing, who might "recognize" you as a daily friend, would only provide answers which either offered glowing praise or an opportunity to purchase something "especially for you", based on past purchases.  Sounded interesting...a chance for comic relief from my weird day.

Most of what I found was expected: either references to my job, our charity or articles I'd written for the local newspaper over the years. There was a genealogical site or two I recall visiting years ago, then one I'd never heard of caught my eye. I clicked on the link and discovered my name and status listed.



Any other day I would've let it go, but not yesterday.  People who work on family trees want facts, so corrections are expected to keep errors from passing on as fact.  To correct this I had to join the "free" portion of the site, which has been purchased by a site I already use and trust.  I felt somewhat  better when I discovered the individual handling that tree had listed EVERYONE in my family as dead.  I'd also been elevated to only child status. I sent an e-mail proclaiming my still breathing state (plus or minus the pollen situation) and wondered if she'd like some help with that branch of the tree.

On the drive home I needed a distraction from my less than jovial mood, which had grown with the discovery I was Dead and no one had bothered to tell me. I flipped on the radio, where NPR had a story on Graduation Commencement Speeches.  They fell into 2 categories: YOU can do anything!  vs.  YOU are NOT special.  Sure, it's been a while since high school graduation (I skipped the college zoo version),  but of all the things I recall about it, the speech wasn't a part of it.  There were 720 Seniors in my graduating class, the largest ever...and that didn't include the 25 or so who didn't graduate.  There we sat, in folding chairs on the football field, having been fed a dozen rules of conduct and the fact that we WOULD sing the Alma Mater song before leaving the field under penalty of having our diplomas revoked.  I kid you not.

What I recall about graduation is:

We called our Principal "Mumbles" because he sounded like a cross between a  bad drive through restaurant speaker and Charlie Brown's teacher.  To this day I believe that's why they sat us in alphabetical order.  And still, everyone discreetly checked their diploma once seated to make sure they had the right one.

We sat under the blackest thunderstorm clouds known to exist, thunder beginning to rumble as the 50th student crossed the stage.  Some pray to graduate, I prayed to live through graduation as it began to lightning in the distance.

I anxiously waited for my childhood friend's turn...all of us did.  His last name was Zilch. He broke the rules by sailing his cap across the stage, into the middle of us as we wildly cheered, while Mumbles gave us a stern dressing down.  I think.  The mumble sounded angry and authoritative.

And then, as family and friends crowded the edge of the field, ready to rush to congratulate their little pride and joy as soon as Mumbles said we were done, they were stunned into silence.  We looked at each other, sighed, stood and sang that damned song we'd had to practice every morning for a month.  The crowd was... speechless.  No one had sung that song in more than 15 years. 

And as we walked off the field, the bottom fell out.  Luckily it was just rain, minus the lightning. 

If I had to give a speech to a graduating class, what would I say?  My parents had already ingrained the "work hard and you can be anything" into my DNA.  The only meaningful piece of advice I got that year was from a teacher, tired of hearing a student whine about a grade.  The teacher turned to look at all of us and calmly declared, "Life isn't fair.  The day you realize that, you have become an adult."

Not the cool adulthood I'd envisioned, but at least it was the truth.

I would probably leave a graduating class with this simple message from the best doctor ever: 

Dr. Seuss.


Kim Ayres said...


hope said...

That's funny!