2020-06-12 – Dear 2020 Graduates: Congratulations on your achievement!
I know that your final year didn’t turn out as you expected. Graduation is supposed to be a fun and exciting time—not a plague. But take heart that your families are proud of you—and your communities. As I bike around the city, I see so many signs wishing graduates well. I’ve never seen that before. You are loved.
And your graduations couldn’t be much worse than most of mine were.
My best was from eighth grade, but it was fairly minimal. We had a little assembly and we sang “See You in September” because nearly every kid in our class was going to the same high school in the fall.
High school graduation was a bust. We sang “What the World Needs Now Is Love” (click here for a beautiful 2020 interpretation of the song.) The thing that was most notable about the song is that love was pretty much lacking in my high school graduation class. I walked out of graduation rehearsal because of all the harassment coming my way on stage from the jerks in my class. The principal called my mother to try to forestall a walk-out during the real event. My mom told the principal that he had allowed those kids to harass me and my friends for several years, so it was up to him to prevent it on that last day—or prepared to be embarrassed. He agreed. I walked without incident. But I never looked back.
I didn’t graduate with my entering college class. I dropped out winter quarter of my senior year. So when I dropped back in spring quarter, I was one class short of completing my requirements. I had to do an independent study class over the summer to graduated. So I walked in August instead of June. I didn’t know anyone. And it was over 100 degrees. All for a piece of paper that the school would have mailed to me. We didn’t sing any songs and they didn’t even have anyone interesting speaking to us.
I don’t know what to tell you about my law school graduation. There were actually two ceremonies. The “real” graduation was held in a huge football stadium with thousands of graduates. They didn’t call us by name. They didn’t give us diplomas. I don’t remember if I wore a cap and gown. Most of my class didn’t show up. The second ceremony was called a “hooding.” It was just my law school class. More people showed up for that one, but no one was interested. We were studying for the bar exam and looking for jobs. My parents wanted to go, so I went. I would have been happier sending them to these ceremonies without me.
Oh, there were no songs. Then there was one more: my masters degree. I was much older at that point so my wife and kids were attending. I took the train to get there early. Someone on the train had a seizure and we waited in the station for paramedics to arrive. I have to admit, my day was better than that guy’s. I had work colleagues at the graduation because my company owned the university. They congratulated me on my accomplishment and fired me a year later after working for them for seventeen years.
These are my memories. Pretty crappy. And they’re not even shared memories. Dear 2020 graduates: at least your fucked-up graduations are something that you’ll always share with your classmates.
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