Fifty years ago this very day I graduated from high school.
My friend Denise shared our commencement program with me today. Our theme? Peace, Progress, Unity. Motto? "The key to success lies in the pathway of each individual." Our class color was the rainbow, class flowers, carnations.
Can you tell we were flower children with such hope for the future? Two of my classmates tied for salutatorian. These were really smart guys whose schedules were loaded down with advanced math and science classes. One, our class president, spoke about “the crisis of our generation.” He went on to become a lawyer. His co-salutatorian majored in physics, earned his master’s and doctorate in mathematics from LSU. His thesis was “Ordered Models for the Lambda Calculus.” I don’t even know what that means. He is now a college professor.
Our valedictorian’s transcript was filled with business related classes: typing, shorthand, bookkeeping. Not that she wasn’t smart - she was - but had we used quality points in our GPAs, she wouldn’t have been on the stage. She was a library science major in college.
Did I mention her mother taught the business-related classes?
Graduation was my first of many lessons that life is not fair.
The valedictorian’s speech was entitled “Is That All There Is?” I don't remember her speech - I probably wasn't listening - but the catchy title is reminiscent of a Peggy Lee song.
And if THAT's what the speech was about...
Of the song, James Love said “….it is a very interesting song indeed. Very deep and profound. This is a song that really makes you think. Basically you go through all this stuff in life and really...who cares? What is the big deal? Nothing spectacular happens. You win the football game, get married, make a lot of money, have kids and at the end of the day....whatever. You go through life expecting the big thing and really...whatever happens that is really important or significant in the big picture? What would be interesting is to see a real live ghost or a close up of a UFO or have something really significant happen. But nothing ever seems to. You live, you die and 200 years from now, nobody is going to care or know who the hell you were. And the break out the booze is like....F*** it. No sense in getting all melodramatic or whatever. Enjoy it while it is here and don't get all hung up. Eventually we are all going to kick off anyway. Ultimately, this song is about sadness that the great optimism that we had of life as kids and all the possibilities that await us...it really didn't live up to the hype now did it?"
What a send-off for graduating high school seniors!
So here I am 50 years later... I would like to be in that white dress again (but only for a few minutes) to remember those somewhat forgotten hopes and dreams. I knew I wanted to be a mom – and I have two great kids and two wonderful granddaughters. I dreamed of being a writer; my high school English teacher encouraged to follow that dream. I took a little detour but am finding my way back.
The big thing? Life is the big thing! If you stop and look around, it's filled with important and remarkable events. My life has had its ups and downs and few things have turned out the way I thought they would 50 years ago, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Every experience has made me who I am…and I’m okay with that.
"..So let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball..."
and run, leap, celebrate, be thankful that we had this big thing.
It’s a lot!
Even if that's all there is.