“Sometimes you have to say goodbye to the things you know, and hello to the things you don’t!” Boon Hoggenbeck said that to his little brother in William Faulkner’s The Reivers and it pops into my noggin every year at this time. You know, graduation.
The big day is coming around again and between you and me, I have a strong urge to cut-and-paste stuff I wrote in this space last year. I know, I know, that is not what you’re supposed to do, but what can you say that hasn’t been said before?
We’ll see a line of robes and mortarboards when high school seniors will move their tassels to the left and be turned loose upon an unsuspecting world. People will be giving inspirational speeches and young folks will put down their backpacks and march off into the world full of encouragement and optimism.
Incidentally, there once was a time when, if you saw someone wearing a backpack they were either in the Army or going camping. But now, you need it to keep all your stuff. At least that’s what it looks like as I’m watching kids going to, or from, school.
At some point in the last 40 years, it was decided that if you went to school — any school, even college — you needed a backpack.
And you jam it full. If there’s any room left over you find some more stuff to stuff in it. All those little necessities, and if you’re lucky there’ll be room left in there for books for homework.
But I digress.
Commencement exercises for Socorro, Magdalena, Alamo, and even Quemado high schools are all happening this week. High school graduation is a strange kind of time when you’re nervous and happy and sentimental all at the same time. It’s one of those grand passages of life when everybody who steps onto the stage to receive their diploma steps off the stage a different person. In a way.
A time for joy, a time for tears, as the Four Freshman sang way back in the pre-hip-hop days.
So, with all this going on, one gets to thinking about times gone by.
And wondering what’s going to happen next.
For most of us, the plans we make for ourselves post-graduation hardly ever work out as imagined, and as Stephen Colbert once said, “Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.”
It comes down to whatever one’s goal in life is one must pursue it, even if you’re the guy who starts out wiping down the sneeze guard on the salad bar. You never know if you’ll one day own that dang sneeze guard.
Granted, a lot of what we’re taught in school doesn’t seem to be of much use out in the real world, but I have to admit algebra taught me how to think critically. Especially after I flunked it and had to go to summer school and take it over.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to come up with some original words of inspiration but I’m not very good at that sort of thing, so if you don’t mind I’ll turn that job over to smarter people, like Dr. Seuss, who said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
Or Richard Costolo of Twitter who tweeted, “When I was your age, we didn’t have the Internet in our pants. We didn’t even have the Internet. That’s how bad it was.”
Wise men, those two, huh?
How about, “The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.”
Then there’s the wisdom of Calvin and Hobbs, “So, what’s it like in the real world? Well, the food is better, but beyond that, I don’t recommend it.”
The best words of advice I received was from my mother when I was trying to learn how to touch type on our old Remington Noiseless, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.”
I’m joking, of course, it was a quote from Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
She was also famous for saying, “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” I lied. That was Pink Floyd.
Before I get sidetracked again, kudos to everyone graduating.
And no matter what comes next – as Texan James McMurtry sings:
Stay alive inside, don’t be a stranger
Keep a line open to the folks back home
Don’t run and hide when everything changes
Walk between the raindrops dry as a bone