Ah yes, graduation from high school looms on the horizon for many students and parents – a hectic, but hopefully joyful time, when we say hasta luego to another phase of life done. We have our son graduating next month, and it’s like a bullet train full of memories that keep cropping up, as well-wishers grant him, and us, salutations and goodwill wishes. My own 40th high school reunion is on deck this coming July in Des Moines, and I’m wondering, dang – what the heck happened over the course of 40 years? O course, God laughs at you as you make other plans, and that is the exact case, compadres. If you would have told me back in the day, that I would be in Storm Lake, Iowa, with one of my jobs writing for a local newspaper at 58 years old, well, I would have laughed that cocky little chuckle that most grads laugh when they hit the soccer field of life running. Are you kidding me? I’m off to write “Something,” “More Than A Feeling” or “Rock And Roll All Night,” so I can grab the seemingly endless stream of songwriting royalties like those songs have generated, and grab a piece of rockstardom, while I’m at it. If you believe that, Kim Jong-un has a peace agreement he wants you to sign.
You can’t make this stuff up, this Broadway play of life, but how you react to it is 99 percent of the battle, in my mind anyway. Oh yes, back to the old school, high school thing – okay, I look back and wonder how did I manage to graduate from high school? College, not a problem, I had that figured out, but high school? ‘Tis a strange tale, but not all that surprising - a bit of sleight of hand, and a deft maneuver called “system manipulation.” Yeah, Dad, I know, I know – you’re gone, but you’ve always wanted me to admit this, so here I go.
Back in the day, the decade of the1970’s to be exact, our educational emerged from the tumult of the 1960’s enlightenment, so to speak. The governmental higher-ups decided, hey, we need to get more progressive in our educational course thinking, so let’s put into play some “social awareness” courses for our youngsters, starting in our esteemed high schools. Alt-right people, I know what you are thinking – yes, this is were it all started, the beginning of liberal thought influence on our young minds, the decline of western civilization. Whatever – give it a rest for once, kids. I turned out okay, in spite of the “communist migration” into my brain (and listening to “Dark Side Of The Moon” quite a bit). So these courses were designed as social studies courses, and you could really load up on them for high school credits. See where I’m headed here? So perfect, and so right up my alley for my brain process. I had a paranoid fear of math and the sciences back then. Today, I love ‘em, but back in the Mesopotamian Era... yeah, not so much. The last high school course I took was chemistry, and the last math course I took was geometry. I could be wrong, but I’m not that far off. Fear of failure was the key here, plain and simple – I didn’t want to look bad because I couldn’t wrap my head around those classes. So, what do I do? Load up on the social awareness stuff. I get a huge laugh when I think back on bringing home my report cards for my dad, and stepmom, to inspect. The old man would look up from reading the transcript, and ask, “What the hell is ‘Black Awareness’?” I would dutifully explain it was one of my many social studies classes, and hey, look Pop, I got an ‘A’ in it this semester! Nope, he wasn’t buying it. He may have had only an 8th grade education, but he could size me up, and be onto my ruse like lipstick on a pig. So much for my perfect plan.
Here’s another bit of magic I care not to admit, but sheepishly will – I should have taken that 8th grade typing class. Why not, as I sit here, and type out this column using the fastest two fingers west of the Pecos? I’m paying for past sins here, mi amigos. And that Spanish class I should have taken? Nah, I’ll never use it, EVER. Lo equivocado que estaba, hermanos y hermanas! Again, greatly paying for that, as I try to catch up, with learning a second language, as a bucket list thing. Stupid is as stupid does, Lieutenant Dan – yeah, I’ve used that phrase already, but it seems oh-so-appropo now. Somehow, some way, in spite of my misguided thoughts when I was a wee lad, I managed to walk up to the podium, shake my principal’s hand, and graduate high school. So there you have – all my missteps, and futile attempts to outsmart all the smarty pants authoritative figures that I felt needed outsmarting back then. It’s a cautionary tale, which I’m sure when any senior up for graduation will read this, then pause into contemplative thought, and promptly throw my column in the trash. Oh well, what are you going to do? Live and learn.
So there you have it, another tell-all. But if you’re paying attention in life, you’ll learn from those potholes when they screw up your alignment of life, and move on. And I think, if you really want it, there are second, third, and fourth acts in life where you mend those fences, and look to correct some things that you overlooked in the past. Chances are out there, and you just need to realize when, where, and how, then go for it. So, as graduation festivities approach us all, yes, look backward to prepare to look forward, and learn. You can teach old dogs new tricks, even if that tennis ball that you are throwing is beat-up and worn out, or fuzzy, fluorescent green, and brand new.