Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remembering 18

It was a bright and sunny day - June 3, 1994. I was eighteen and ready to take on the world.

On this day, I would receive my diploma - a symbol of accomplishment, completion, and freedom. I was proud of having completed all twelve years from kindegarten to my Senior year without any (major) hiccups.

I was looking forward to my newfound freedom. Freedom from teachers. Freedom from homework. Freedom from parents. I would be free to do what I want, when I wanted, and with who I wanted. No parents telling me it was past my curfew. No teachers marking my tardies or absences. The world was mine!

Recieving my diploma
As I walked up to get my diploma, the only worry on my mind was trying not to trip as I crossed the stage and which party to go to after graduation. Just look at the smile on my young face.
 Years of math (which I failed), English and History (the only classes I excelled), and drama were over. We were finally adults.

After the ceremony, all of us proud graduates walked out - feeling changed. Older somehow. Certainly wiser. Hopeful definitely. And I can't speak for everyone but I was ready to kiss my parents a respectful goodbye and get on with the rest of my life.

I posed for photos afterward, making sure to glance around for my friends occassionally (I didn't want them to leave for the party without me). A few "old" people tried to give me some advice that sounded like "blah blah blah, I'm old....blah blah blah." What did they know? I was about to make my own way in this world.

Me on the right with my sister and dad after the ceremony

Hmmm, if I'd only known then what I know now. The things I would have told my 18 year old self.

Like freedom from parents maybe but now you answer to a boss...who can fire you...who can make your life miserable.

Like how easy high school was compared to college.

Like how much different it is to be an adult and responsible for the choices you make.

Anyway, fast forward to 2012. A couple of Sunday's ago, Rob's oldest son Alex graduated from high school. I giggled as I listened to EVERY valedictorian talk about their newfound freedom. Freedom from parents, freedom from teachers...yeah, you get the picture. I loved the innocence. I loved their hopeful speeches about changing the world and making money and "becoming someone." I watched them and hoped they all would accomplish their dreams. And if they didn't, I hoped they'd discover new dreams.

At right (and above a little) is a shot from graduation. A sea of red and white. You could feel the energy from these young men and women as they waited for this ceremony to be over. I imagine some were thinking of that night's parties. Some were thinking of taking off for college, curing diseases, etc. I imagine some of them were wondering what the hell they were going to do now.

And here's Alex with Rob afterwards. For nearly 30 minutes, this young man stood smiling for photos. He was gracious and respectful but you could feel the "get me outta here" vibes pouring off him.

Proud dad stood by his son, grinning ear to ear at the accomplishment. Also feeling a little sad that his "little" boy had grown up. I think a little worried about the future too.

Just the week before, Alex had informed us he had enlisted in the Army. In troubled times, I think that's a hard thing for parents NOT to worry about. What if he goes to war? What if what if what if.....But as a parent, you step up and support. I have only known Alex a year but I'm really proud of him. When he explained why he made the decision, I wanted to applaud. He put a lot of very grown up thought into his choice. In the year I've known Alex, he's had many dreams. A guide in Alaska, the Coast Guard, a civil engineer....and a few others I can't remember. He wants to see the world. He knows the Army will help pay for his education...freeing him from substantial student loan debt.

As someone who loves him, I'll worry. I can't even imagine how much Rob and his mom worry. But I support him, applaud him, and without a doubt will count him in my prayers. He leaves for boot camp in January. It'll be interesting to see the man he is when he gets done. Congratulations to all the 2012 graduates! The world is yours!

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