Hats Off! (aka: Graduation Day)

My 17yo son has graduated from high school.

Hooray!

My Kid on Graduation Day

The end of 13 years of homework struggles, 13 years of report card anxiety, 13 years of parent-teacher conferences and dropoff/pickup arrangements. The end! Woohooo! *Throws hat in the air*

Of course, the end of one era often signals the beginning of another era. For my son, this marks the beginning of his years as a young adult, and the start of college. Which of course, means a few more years of homework struggles and report-card anxiety (for him). It also means, hopefully, his entry into the workforce as a scrub, like the rest of us had to do at some point in our youth. Yes, kid, I want fries with that. Welcome to the Real World.

As my son and his class marched along to Pomp and Circumstances in their flowing green robes and tasseled hats, I was filled with pride, relief, and excitement about my son’s next phase of life and what it may bring. I was also filled with thoughts about the very idea of graduation. According to Merriam Webster, one definition of “graduate” is: to pass from one stage of experience, proficiency, or prestige to a usually higher one. We all graduate numerous times throughout our lives. We graduate from high school and begin college. We graduate from childhood to become young adults. We graduate from university to begin our careers. From single-hood to married life. From being green, inexperienced neophytes to experts in our field.

Graduation ceremony

Our graduations, as we ascend the staircase of life, don’t always come with flowing robes and tasseled hats. We don’t always celebrate each rite-of-passage with parties and hoopla. But maybe we should. Maybe, each time we accomplish an important, long-term goal or achievement, we should celebrate just like graduates on the day of their high school or college graduation. You did it! You passed! Your hard work and dedication has paid off, and now you have the reward of entering a new phase in your life. Drink up friends. Let’s cut the cake and throw our hats in the air, and celebrate our life’s successes together.

Graduation throw hat in the air

Playlist for Graduates of All Kinds

Unwritten– Natasha Bedingfield

Graduation (Friends Forever) — Vitamin C

It’s Time — Imagine Dragons

Ain’t it Fun? — Hayley Williams

School’s Out — Alice Cooper

It’s Good to Be Alive — Andy Grammer

The Climb — Miley Cyrus

On Top of the World — Imagine Dragons

I Hope You Dance — Lee Ann Womack

Don’t You Forget About Me — Simple Minds

Closing Time — Semisonic

It’s My Life — Bon Jovi

100 Years — Five for Fighting

World — Five for Fighting

Titanium — David Guetta (ft. Sia)

Best Day of My Life — American Authors

Celebration — Kool & the Gang

Hall of Fame — The Script

 

 

Last week, my 17yo son graduated from high school.

Hooray!

Connection! (aka: Unexpected Encounter on Aisle 4)

 

human connection contact

Connection.

After food and water (and, some would say, sex), connection may be the greatest thing we crave.

It’s why we become slaves to our cell phones, eyes glued to the tiny glowing screens, anxiously awaiting word from our contacts. It’s why we flock to social media. Our comments and Tweets, likes and shared memes are like drops of water, filling our empty cups. We need to reach out, to have meaningful conversations, to belong.

Connection used to be a simple thing. People rose in the morning and connected with family around the breakfast table. Or exchanged greetings at the local market, met with customers face-to-face, shared personal struggles and successes with neighbors, with coworkers, with fellow churchgoers. You were a member of the community – not a virtual one artificially contrived to group together the like-minded, but a real life community of people with real names (not user names) and real faces (not avatars).

Remember those days? Neither do I.

Imagine! Working side-by-side in a community garden while chatting with a human being instead of chiming in on a gardening forum online. Going for a jog or walk with a regular group instead of running alone, then posting your milestones on social media. Arguing with your local book club discussion group about the finer points of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World instead of tossing your personal review into the virtual soup.

Connection – real connection, is intimate. It has eye contact, and touch, and awkward pauses. It is the surprise of saying the same words at the same time (jinx!). It is the smell of someone else’s cologne, the sounds of sighs and tongue clicks, the inflection of voices.

It is ironic that I write of these things, since I am a writer and deeply introverted, and enjoy my time alone more often than time interacting with people. But once in a while, I actually crawl out of my cave to explore the human world. As I happened to be doing just the other day, during a somewhat routine 10-minute stop at the supermarket.

supermarket aisle shopping cartAs I pushed my cart down Aisle 4, an elderly woman leaned forward on her walker and complimented my dress. “It is so pretty, and it goes so nicely with your skin. You have lovely skin,” she added. “You are so lucky that it doesn’t burn easily.”

I flashed the woman a grateful smile, and nearly continued on my way, but stopped. What if this woman was not just offering a compliment? What if she was reaching out, seeking connection? “That’s true,” I told her. “But the trade-off is that it is harder for me to absorb Vitamin D from the sun.”

“It is?” The woman’s eyes widened in surprise. “I never knew that.”

The conversation continued, revolving around the challenges and benefits of my toasty brown skin and her pale, Irish complexion. We spoke of race relations throughout the generations, and of travel, and of the ups and downs of relating to siblings. My 10-minute shopping trip stretched out an additional 30 minutes. But that didn’t matter at all. What mattered was the mini-miracle of two complete strangers having an actual, meaningful dialogue about life right there in the aisle of the supermarket. Connecting. Just as everyone used to do, I imagine, in the days before cell phones and the internet.

At last, we said our goodbyes, and thanked each other for the unexpected and strangely satisfying experience. Who knows if we will come across one another again? Maybe that is the sort of thing that only happens in small communities. But still, my cup was filled, and I imagine hers was, too. Now, of course, I ironically must relay the experience here in the virtual world. But perhaps in reading these words, you, too, may decide to pause when the opportunity arises, put your cell phone away, and connect with a real, live human being.

community

 

How to Be a Grownup 101 (aka: 38-Going-On-8)

Twenty minutes away from my house, there is a large, high-end shopping mall. From time to time, I enjoy shopping there. I stroll leisurely through the mall, admiring the architecture and design, and visiting a number of familiar, “regular-folk” shops, like Yankee Candle and JCPenney. But there are also a number of shops in that mall that I avoid completely. Designer shops, filled with name brand clothes and accessories that probably fill the closets of celebrities and have price tags higher than the total of all my personal assets.shops better from the outside

Now I know – it’s a free country. I have just as much right as anyone to browse the racks in high-end shops. But anytime I have dared to cross the threshold into such places, I am overwhelmed with the sudden urge to tiptoe, and the paranoid suspicion that the salespeople are keeping their eyes on me, the black woman with the Target store wardrobe. I am hyper-aware that I do not belong there, that my worn-out Sears flats should not be stepping across their plush carpeting. And so, I avoid these shops, limiting my browsing to a quick glance at the window displays as I rush past.

It is not only shops in the mall that produce the sensation that I am a foreign visitor in a land which I do not understand. There are several types of places that I generally avoid – not for lack of curiosity, but due to insecurity and cluelessness. Bars, for example. I have never once been to a bar. For starters, I would not even know what to do if I were to go to a bar. On television and in books, people just walk right up to a bartender and order some type of drink. They don’t, like, study a menu or anything. So how do people know what drinks even exist, or how much they cost? Does the rest of the adult world take a crash course in How to Order Drinks 101? I guess I missed that class. Secondly, I have never been to a bar, because (again, my learning is entirely based on television and books), it seems like people pretty much only go to bars because they are shopping for a one-night-stand partner. Not only am I not even remotely interested in such a thing, but the very idea of being surveyed that way gives me the urge to run away screaming. Nope, no bars. bars are for grownups not me

Another thing that other adults seem to enjoy doing is going out to casinos. I am amazed by the way people discuss weekends in Reno, or Vegas, or the Indian casinos, with as much excitement as kids discussing a trip to Disneyland. I have only ever been in a casino three times – mostly just hurrying through on my way upstairs to the Circus Circus acrobatics shows. Though once, I boldly wasted $5.00 on slot machines (and won nothing), and felt no excitement – nothing but the realization that I just threw away $5.00 and didn’t even get a video game out of it. I wandered around a little afterward; feeling completely overwhelmed by the blinking, flashing, buzzing machines, and the excited shouts of people as they handed over their money and watched the dealers do whatever it is the dealers do. Clearly, they all learned how to play those games in How to Gamble, 101. I missed that class, too. They Make it Look Fun but I dont even know what they are doing

little girl playing dressupIt isn’t just that I feel out-of-place and clueless in high-end shops, bars and casinos. It is also that I feel like a little girl navigating a world that belongs to grownups. I am 38, going on 8 years old. I have the right to enter a shop, a casino, or a bar, but any minute, someone will come along and point to the door. “Goodbye, little girl. Come back when you are older and more experienced and know how to do what the rest of us already know how to do.”

Sometimes I feel utterly clueless about parts of the grownup world.

Sometimes I feel utterly clueless about parts of the grownup world.