A surprisingly fond memory…

I have no idea what would have made me think of it this morning while driving to the office today, I had the most vivid memory of the night following my high school graduation. Maybe I’ll write it off to the mind going to odd places to avoid thinking unpleasant thoughts… like spending an otherwise perfectly fine day as a cube dweller in fluorescent-lit hell.

The notion of a raging party following graduation is so common it’s become a go-to trope in teen movies… or at least it still was the last time I saw a teen movie. There was certainly a selection of those available to choose from that night.

The one I picked was a more low-key affair. Someone, I don’t remember who, snagged a room at the Holiday Inn in Grantsville. Did hotels rent rooms to 18 year olds back then? There were maybe a dozen of us there, strictly a coed affair, all thinking we were young princelings of the universe.

There was plenty to drink, pizza to be ordered, and the possibility of other debauchery to be had, I’m sure. I wasn’t much of a partier in high school – I saved most of my boozing and smoking and other questionable life choices for college. I’m not claiming that I was an angel back then, but in some ways, the parties I did go to (and some that I hosted) were remarkably tame… as long as you didn’t look too hard at what was happening in dark corners. In any case, those long ago band parties are probably a topic for a different post.

Graduation night, though, is supposed to be the big night. Most fresh minted grads, I suppose, would have made a real time of it. Me? Well, I left the party long before midnight. I don’t remember what excuses I made, but I was sleepy and everything was loud. I stopped at Sheetz for a sub, went home, and put myself to bed not long after the clock struck twelve.

In retrospect, it feels like that night may have set the tone for how I’ve felt about parties and staying up late for almost my entire adult life. I still have no idea why I would have thought of any of that this morning.

Prune juice…

While I’ve been fiddling around on the internet this week I’ve gotten a steady stream of reminders that friends from high school are becoming parents of high school graduates themselves. I’ll just sit here for a minute and let that sink in. Their kids are finishing something I feel like we just finished ourselves a few years ago… Except of course we didn’t. As I was reminded when I saw someone mention the impending arrival of our 20th high school reunion next summer. How exactly that happened, I have no idea. It’s like I turned around to get something on the other side of the room and 19 years snuck away while I wasn’t paying attention.

I won’t get into the realization that these days 50 is way closer than 15. Aside from the occasional ache and pain (and other assorted indignities), I don’t feel like that could possibly be true. It is, though. Don’t bother to consult a calendar. Trust me. It’ll be unnerving if you do the math.

So if you’ll excuse me I’ll shuffle off to the kitchen now to enjoy a refreshing glass of prune juice and see if my dentures need scrubbed.

So you just graduated?

The whole world is open before you. Congratulations! I won’t mention that you’ve just been booted into the real world into the teeth of one of the worst job markets in living memory, or the fact that your degree doesn’t actual qualify you to work in your field, or that you’re about to enter a soul crushing, mind numbing grind that will rob you of your youth and keep up its blistering until you’ve dropped dead or saved enough money for retirement – whichever comes first. I won’t bring any of that up because your graduation is a time of celebration. It’s a chance to recognize a milestone achievement before you go off to make your way in the world.

Life after graduation doesn’t have to be doom, gloom, and the choice between living in your parent’s basement or your own studio apartment with an endless parade of ramen for dinner. Sure, you’re going to want you weekends to stretch from Wednesday afternoons until early Monday morning, but a few rounds of sitting through some mindless 8AM staff meeting will most likely break you of that desire. It’s just one of the machine’s many ways of breaking you down so it can building build you back up into a useful and productive cog.

Hope isn’t lost, though. The good news is that countless generations have preceded you. A few of their number were even thoughtful enough to write down a the tips and tricks that will help you navigate the professional world you’re about to enter. Now I could let you in on all these secrets for free, but that really defeats the lesson I’m trying to teach here – that sometimes free advice isn’t worth the electrons it was written with. Sometimes if you want the inside scoop, you’ve got to be willing to pay.

Let’s face it, at the low, low price of $2.99 for the ebook, knowing what you’re in for before it happens would be deal at twice the price. So, my newly graduated friend, I invite you to head on over to iTunes, SmashwordsBarnes & Noble, or Amazon to pull back the curtain and take your first steps into a broader world forewarned and forearmed. Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees is the graduation present to yourself that you didn’t even know you needed.

For the grads…

With graduation just around the corner, I’m going to take this Sunday morning opportunity to plug what I think is the essential gift for each and every one of them. And what better gift could you give the graduate in your life than their very own copy of Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees? It’s the gift that says “I care about your future.”

Sure, I know this probably seems self serving, but do you really want your graduate to walk out into the professional world starry-eyed and unsuspecting of the sheer volume of ridiculous shit that’s awaiting them at every turn? Yeah. I didn’t think so. This is the field guide that you and I didn’t receive. We had to learn these little life lessons the hard way. Why not let the next generation benefit from our hard won lessons learned?

So that’s my pitch this morning. Click over to Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords and show that special person in your life that you really do care about their future. You do care, don’t you?

The big game…

This past weekend was Homecoming weekend in the little part of the world where I grew up. For anyone who grew up within earshot of Cumberland, Maryland the cross-town rivalry between the city’s two high schools is the stuff of local legend. Without rhapsodizing it, the homecoming game is a big hairy deal.

I don’t hail from the mighty city of Cumberland, of course, so I’ve always watched their version of homecoming with something of a bemused look on my face. You know, in the way that people watch others who are taking something just a little too seriously. But it seems to make them happy, so no harm, no foul.

I’m not going to lie, the idea of homecoming being a big deal is a concept that eludes me. I graduated from high school in 1996, went to college, and promptly moved away. Not long after that, my alma mater, along with a few other schools, went defunct. They ceased to be. They are no more. It became a dead parrot. In its place they opened a shiny new school that presumably is better equipped to meet student needs. I say God bless. Seventeen years after graduation, it’s not exactly like I spend a lot of time pining away for my junior year locker. In fact, writing this post has accounted for more time pondering high school than I’ve spent in total since I walked across the stage to get my diploma.

I have great memories of high school. My closest friends today are the guys who were my closest friends then. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing that only really happens in a small town. Maybe it’s because I moved away, but I don’t lose any sleep about what’s happening at or happened to the school I graduated from the better part of two decades ago.

Maybe homecoming is an anachronism – a throwback to a time when you graduated, stayed put, and the social life of your town revolved largely around the comings and goings of the local school. Maybe it’s different if you have kids and it does provide some kind of continuity from generation to generation. Maybe it’s different if your school is something that exists as more than an ever fading memory. That’s a lot of maybes involved in a concept I clearly don’t grasp.

I guess I’ve just never felt the need for a special weekend designated for homecoming. Whenever I’ve felt the compulsion to stroll down memory lane or stir up the ghosts of the past, I just go do it on my own accord. No parade or big game needed. Then again, crowds always make me nervous so it could just be my inner hermit talking out loud.