I’m a pretty nostalgic guy, both for my own childhood, and for the world in general, and when it comes to my own life, I always find myself thinking about milestones, anniversaries, and key dates in my four decades on Earth.
But for some reason the fact that this year is the 20th anniversary of my college graduation has totally snuck up on me. I thought about it a few times as my wonderful alma mater, the University of Delaware, sent me emails reminding me to come to alumni weekend and oh yeah, donate some money as well.
But with life being busy, I just haven’t spent much time thinking about it. Until Saturday, when the wife and little boy and I went to Fordham University’s commencement. We went because two of our babysitters, Juily and Caroline, were graduating, and we love them for many reasons, including how great they are with our boy, and we wanted to show our support.
The graduation itself was pretty run-of-the-mill, a speaker droning on, but then hearing the individual names of the students being honored got me thinking.
It is still, and probably always be, a pretty huge deal to graduate, and watching the pride and excitement of these 21 and 22-year-olds walk across a stage, shake hands with a dean, and then look excitedly into the mass of people in the crowds while trying to find their families, was special to watch.
I always knew going to college was completely expected of me, and I never once thought it was an option not to graduate. But still, that day back in 1997 felt so important. I felt like I had accomplished something; I’d worked hard in college but not always in class, my sweat equity was mostly saved for endless hours at the school newspaper, learning and falling in love with what would be my profession.
The idea that this was the end of my educational journey struck me as both exciting and terrifying; my life had always been organized around September being the beginning of a new year; I remember in September 1997 feeling totally strange for a few days with no school to go to; what, you mean the summer ends and I don’t have any books or homework to worry about?
That graduation day 20 years ago was a milestone I was proud of; my fellow Blue Hens and I (worst mascot in America but we loved it) knew we had accomplished something.
Watching those Fordham grads strut a little after their ceremony on Saturday, the old memories, and pride, came flowing back.
Congratulations to any and all college graduates this spring; it is still a very big deal and quite a worthy accomplishment.
**Next up today, I know there’s a great tradition in live music concerts for the star performer to bring up a “special guest” or a “great friend” who’s also a mega-famous singer, but never in a million years would I have expected these two to be up on stage together.
Yet last week at Dodgers Stadium, Billy Joel brought on his “friend” Axl Rose, to sing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” and the Piano Man’s own “Big Shot.”
I was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan way back when, and I’ve loved Billy Joel since I was 10, but seeing them on stage together here is… weird. It is an interesting juxtaposition to think of their careers together, though: Rose had a huge impact all at once, becoming incredibly famous and then crashing and burning and never really recovered from the crush of fame he received. He’s had so many problems over the years, from drugs and alcohol to showing up hours late for concerts, and he’s so unreliable that he doesn’t have much of a career anymore.
Joel, meanwhile, started off small and slowly, built a reputation as a great songwriter and singer, and has seen his fame endure for, what, at least 40 years now. He’s had lots of problems, too (bankruptcy, drinking and driving) but kept his head down and just kept performing, and now he’s a bullet-proof icon.
Anyway, just a thought. Watch the video and tell me if it’s as weird for me as it is for you.
**Finally today, a small “funeral” for my first name. For the past 45 years, Michael has been one of the most popular, if not the most popular, boys name for parents. Not one class I was ever in, from kindergarten through college, was I the only Michael. Always had to ask the teacher for the last name of the Michael they were looking for.
Lots of times, I wish I had a unique name. There were too many Michael’s in the world, I always felt; why’d my parents have to be so trendy? (And don’t get me started on the early 1980s problems we had, when Life cereal ran their “Mikey Likes It” commercials 24/7, and we Michael’s had to endure being called “Mikey” for years.” Then again, Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan had our name so that wasn’t too bad.)
But now, the reign of Michael seems to have officially ended. New numbers released by the Social Security Administration show Michael to have slipped to 8th place in 2016, and at its lowest level since 1940.
The Liams, Noahs and Masons of our world have all edged Michael aside. And I’m a little sad, surprisingly. I liked being so popular 🙂