Guest Opinion

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Grads facing the inevitable

So you're graduating. Know it all, do you? Ready to grab you bags, Dad's credit card and the keys to the family truckster and hit the open road? Going out to grab life by the throat, bite down like Lestat and slurp up the very marrow of its existence?

Heading out to find a place where your special, unique and oh-so-sought-after gifts will be appreciated? Reveling in your wisdom, your savoire faire?

Planning a last summer of hitting the old haunts, spending required time with the parental units and perfecting your tan before fall comes and you're gone like wind? You think you dreams, your restlessness, your urge to flee is your own individual torment? Sorry to break to you. You're not so unique. The same primordial urge that brought civilizations out of caves, sent pioneers over endless prairie and put a man on the moon is driving you away. You need to explore, to stretch and to grow. So go away, already. Seek knowledge. Have some fun. Help someone else along the way. Taste octopus. Taste the wind in your face at the helm of a ship.

Climb an Incan pyramid. Climb the corporate ladder. Ride a subway. Ride a horse. Dig a ditch. Dig Monet. Go to college. Go to work. Sow your oats and reap the harvest. You'll be back. And we'll be waiting. Some of you will come back for good. You'll reenter a bit sheepishly at first. After all, in your youth, you said some pretty harsh things about the community that nurtured you. It's sometimes hard to admit that you may have been wrong. Time, and distance, and knowledge make what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to living in your hometown seem more like petty inconveniences.

Like the good parents we are, we'll turn the other cheek, never mention your youthful indiscretions and put you to work, building our community. We'll invite you to join our clubs, join our churches, join in our life. It doesn't have to be this particular that you return to. There are a thousand such towns around the country. Good communities with good people who care. You'll find one of those, perhaps, and make it your home and make your own individual mark there. Even if you don't come back for good, we know you'll be back, if only in your thoughts and your dreams.

When the piles of work on you desk begin to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you'll look back on those endless American Experience homework projects with something close to nostalgia.

When you're sitting on the freeway, car overheating and the commute seeming more like the Bataan Death March than a simple drive to work, you'll remember those 5 p.m. "traffic jams" in your little home city with a smile.

When you're raising your own children, and reminding them of importance of locking the doors and not talking with strangers, you'll think back on your own childhood, where roving bands of children went on a summer-long free-form house party up and down the block. No one worried, because everyone was watching out for all the children. You may have left, but those roots that were planted here in your youth continue to nourish you.

So, graduates, go. You'll be back. And we'll be waiting. Congratulations.