I came to a major realization over the weekend. One of the most uplifting, positive and inspirational things you can do is go to a graduation ceremony. And the higher up the educational chain, the better.
Of course, these days, everyone graduates from everything. I see people post pictures of graduations from pre-school to kindergarten. Second to third grade, etc. In my lifetime, I personally experienced three graduations– 8th grade, going into high school; high school going into college; and then college, heading off into the real world.
And I as mentioned a couple of times on my radio program, while I don’t have many regrets in this life, one of them is not walking in the ceremony when I graduated from the University of Washington back in 1977. At the time, it felt unnecessary and a bother.
As far as other ceremonies I’ve experienced over the years, there were the high school and college graduations of my kids, step-kids and in-laws. This past weekend, I attended the graduation of my daughter-in-law as she walked and got her degree from the UW’s Foster School of Business. My son and his future wife, graduated together from that school a couple of years ago. Part of the festivities is a pre-ceremony reception where classmates excitedly got to see each other one more time before launching off to parts unknown. You’d see them hug and then, introduce their family to the student with something like, “Mom and Dad, this is the Steve you’ve heard me talk so much about!”
There were different ethnicities and cultures, blue collar, white collar, all the collars, smiling and posing for selfies and organizing group shots and with a genuine excitement about life and the future that you just haven’t seen in our world over the past couple of pandemic-laden years. This wasn’t my day, this was all about the graduates and so I just soaked it all in from my front-row seat.
While watching the events of the day, I couldn’t resist thinking back to those three graduations of mine:
The 8th Grade Event
I had gone to a small Lutheran school for grades 1-6. So, when it suddenly shut down at the end of my 6th year, I found myself thrust into public school during some of the cruelest years for new kids. 7th & 8th grade, I attended Sam Levy Elementary in Torrance, California. At long last, I got to go to the same school as all my friends on our street. But at the same time, I was a new kid, which meant getting picked on a lot. I’ve long psycho-analyzed myself to that being what flushed out my serious comedy side. The bullies would pick on you, but if you made them laugh, they’d pick on you slightly less and eventually say, “You know, you’re all right.” In time, we became friends.
High School Graduation
I had a high school relationship that was full of ups and downs. She was the girl across the street, an adorable cutie, one year ahead of me. There was something inside of me that said I should probably get away from this situation, and so I applied and was accepted to attend the University of Washington along with my buddy, Greg “Tank” Lucas.
As challenging as those 7th & 8th grade years were, high school was a bit of a fresh slate. There were four elementaries feeding the high school, so you basically didn’t know 75% of the student population. I gotta say, those were great years for me. Got to play basketball, made life-long friends, did the rah-rah thing and was Senior Class President (my election speech was a stand-up routine) and A.S.B. Vice-President (no opponent, didn’t have to make a speech).
The Grad Night experience for all of us at Torrance High School and many other So Cal high schools as well, was to walk and get your diploma, hop into a bus and go to Disneyland for the night. Yep, they kept the park open all night for students to stay out until 5am, then take the bus back to school. I don’t remember the details, but I do recall feeling on top of the world.
I got to college ready to graduate. My master plan was to take 18 credits a quarter, instead of the usual 15, and that way I’d only have to go three years plus one quarter. If only breaking up with a girlfriend, partying and having fun hadn’t caused me to actually fail a math class my sophomore year. I still did graduate a quarter early, which also contributed to my decision of not walking in the graduation ceremony. I was really done with the idea of school by this time, and I was anxious to get out there and actually do what I wanted to do–and play radio. I went through the ads of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters, drove over for an interview, got hired and moved to Yakima. Come to think of it, I was probably there while people back in Seattle were donning their caps and gowns.
Now, back to present time and my realization that this would probably be my last graduation until the grandkids revive the tradition. All my kids and Victoria’s kids have done what they set out to do and so we’ll be giving up that experience for a least a decade or so.
But what an experience it can be, to be completely surrounded with hope and promise and dreams and goals, swirling around so much, you can feel it. Here’s a little video I put together from Sam’s walk last week.
Give yourself a serious boost of positive energy–go to a graduation.