It’s graduation time.
Yesterday, the Loop was teeming with happy, giddy students and parents and siblings already in town for graduation ceremonies and festivities. For many youngish humans in my city right now, school’s not just out for the summer — it’s out for good.
As I made my way to the first of several engagements yesterday afternoon/evening, I thought about my own graduation from the University of Iowa so many years ago. They named me valedictorian of my department, though I’m still not sure what that meant, other than that I was tasked with giving a speech at commencement. This terrified me. I was sure that I couldn’t write a commencement speech that wouldn’t be cheesy or boring. So I turned my allotted 15 minutes into a performance: I had fellow grads in the audience write advice on small slips of paper, crumple them up, and toss them up onto the stage so I could catch and read them. Whether this was effective/entertaining or not, I have no idea — the whole thing was a blur.
Sort of like my entire undergrad experience. Not because I was a party animal for four years. (That was just senior year.) It just went so fast, is all. And what I do remember about it is in flimsy patches. I’d have to sit down for awhile and really try to remember, year by year, what that time was and what it was all about. Part of my forgetting surely is due to what came after those good ol’ days: the Mack truck of post-college reality. I went from being a popular senior in small-pond Iowa City to being a studio-apartment-dwelling coat check girl in an enormous metropolis that couldn’t care less about me (or that I was valedictorian.) Those were the hunger years. I had no idea how hard they’d be.
Though there were smiles and whoops downtown yesterday — and all across the country, wherever colleges are wrapping up the year — there was something else in the air which suppose I’d call a tremulous expectation. There’s a “now what?” coloring the graduating seniors’ pride and joy. I know that “now what?” very well. Seeing them cavort around this weekend brought it all back.
I don’t mean to be a buzzkill. It’s wonderful to see all these kids with their whole lives in front of them. Maybe it’s that I’ve lived through some of the life that was ahead of me and it looks different from here. Not bad. Just different.