I could not image what anyone could possibly say at a graduation ceremony, which has not already been said. With all the thousands of high schools and colleges lining up their seniors to walk this time of year, how many themes could possibly be covered without repetition? Life transitons, success and failure, good times to remember, experiences we can never have again, keep in touch… We have been planning to attend two of our nephews’ end-of-a-learning-experience events, so graduation was on my mind. What could possibly be added to the dissertation. Then I got an e-mail, asking me to be the keynote speaker at a local college’s OT assistant program graduation. Hmmm. What could I possibly say….
I will admit that my future-planning orientation has tended to take me away from my own graduation experiences, whether in mind or in body. I honestly cannot pull up any memory of graduating from Homestead High School in 1979. My mind was too focused on being serious and getting to college. As I have suggested in On Half a Century, I learned a lot by dropping out of that college period. My two other college graduations occured in the Spring, while I finished my academic work in December of the years before (1986 and 1992). At San Jose State Univeristy, the occupational therapy program hosted a “convocation” for the 50 or so of us who would be starting our internships around the state, or in my case across the country, a couple of weeks later. We did the cap-and-gown thing, but what I recall was the gathering of a couple of hundred family members, rather than the anonymus stadium event that would occur months later. My mind was busy planning my route across the country.
When my time at New York Unversity wrapped up, I was preoccupied with Emmy’s funeral, packing up my possessions to move to Alexandria, and starting my life with Linda and the job at Alexandria Hospital. A couple of month later, I received a phone call from the dean’s office about speaking at the graduation. I was “interviewed” by the committee who wanted students to speak about their memories of studies at NYU. I did not think that talking about working full time, catching naps on the subway to class, or doing most of my research on AmTrack to Washington, D.C. was what they wanted. I suggested that I would talk about the great privilege we had had to study and establish ourselves in our careers. And, that such a privilege came with a responsibility to use our opportunities to better other people’s lives. Our education would provide us with greater income that most other people in the world could have. We should use our resources to assit those who would never have the opportunities we had. The conference call was kind of quiet. I did not get called back. No matter. I was busy planning for our wedding in July and working with our builder on starting our cabin in West Virginia.
In hind-sight, the only possible regret of not participating in my graduations is that I might have deprived those who believed in me and supported me through those years of college the opportunity to join in the ceremony. But, I think I enjoyed taking Aunt Barbara up to the top of the Statue of Liberty better; having my parents meet the future in-laws in Rhode Island better; letting Linda be immerse (we are Baptists, you know) in my family in Hawaii better… So, much for regrets.
I do remember our nephews’ graduations more than my own. Drew’s graduation before our Alsaka cruise. Ben’s graduation at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Christopher’s and Nick’s graduations on either end of our first tour through the Southwest. And, Drew’s graduation from Boot Camp in San Diego. Notice that I tag those with family travels. There is a theme here.
Now, Benn has completed college… at least the first round. Zack has had all that Jazz (band) in high school. Another round of college graduations is bound to follow. Good thing we like to travel in the Southwest.
Oh, that keynote address that I gave? I talked about life histories and the stories that we formulate from our own experience. They loved the story about my monkey, TJ.