EDITORIAL: Class assignment for 2012 grads–don’t forget who you are or where you came from

When you walk across the stage at a university a few years from now, the mysteries better be pretty well solved. You will be educated in the American way of specialization and getting a job in the field you worked hard to know will be the first of the remaining goals of your life. You will seek to become the best, to be an innovator in your field, and of course attend to your personal life. When you look back down the hard road of a university education you will see that it all makes sense and even your mistakes and major/minor changes were all for the greater good of your educational growth.

But before you get to all of that…there’s your high school graduation, this week. Congratulations!

As somebody blasts “Pomp and Circumstance” over the speakers at Panther Stadium, you will impatiently wait for the speakers to say all they have to say. You will be focused on trying to keep your mortar board from slipping or flying off or stumbling as you walk along the bumpy grass to receive your diploma. You will be looking forward to the party. The whole thing will seem other-worldy as you look up to see your mama crying and even some of the teachers and coaches trying not to join in the tears.

The curious among you may even stop and ask or privately wonder why. Why is everyone acting this way? Why are folks holding onto wadded up tissues? Why are my grandparents staring at me and then back at my parents? Why are men who would never cry smiling at me and looking down at their boots?

It’s because we all know. We know you are leaving. We know it’s the way things have to be. And we all know that the clock has been ticking all along while we absently drove you to kindergarten just a few weeks ago. Time got away from us as we worried about the kind of person you would become, focused on paying bills, taking you places, fixing your meals, threatening to ground you if you didn’t do your homework, etc. But the real reason everyone is acting so weird is something completely different.

You will never, ever again face a day so limitless, so sublime, so without perimeters as this one. The world stretches out in front of you like a fresh mown lawn.  It’s game one of the World Series and anything can happen.

We all know that negotiating some of the curves in the road up ahead will take all you’ve got. We all know there’s no coming back to this moment. We all know that something’s changed, that it will never be like this again. And still we all know that in a short time you will discover all the things wrong with this big old world. We all know your innocence will slowly be replaced by green, bitter knowledge that will change you. And there’s nothing we can do but sit in the stands and watch. It’s your game now.

Sometimes you will remember the little gems of truth that we gave you and you’ll apply them. You’ll mean to call and tell us. You’ll also see firsthand all the inadequacies and shortcomings. You’ll make a sacred vow to never be like us, never do it that way. That’s how the world gets a little better.

And then one day as you’re explaining to someone who you are as a person, and why you believe the good things you believe, your face will involuntarily break into a smile as you tell them you’re from Liberty Hill. A little place right in the foothills of the Shin Oak Ridge right in the middle of Texas. When that happens, be sure and call your mom and dad to let them know.