Almost a month ago now, I was asked to write a post about graduating — what it uniquely meant to me. But clearly that time has come and gone . . . (I might want to reread my own post on the essence of timing). It’s kind of a shame, too. I was going set up this wonderful comparison between graduating and painting a mural. I’m no professional painter but most community murals are a long process, a group process, and a piece of artwork in the making. First, you dream up an idea. Then you lay down a layer of white paint, you sketch or tape-out a design and then finally you whip out the brushes and rollers. And then you just go wild. Constructively wild, that is.
And 17 years later, there you all are, standing back and taking in your very own panorama. It’s kind of amazing. You sigh. The wall is covered in perfectly placed paint. Smears of colors. Sure, there are smudges here and there — spongings of purple where there should only be an orange sky and yellow strokes where you meant to leave a blue ocean. But despite the little errors, it’s still perfect. It’s still a piece of art.
But your body is a different story: your clothes have been ruined . . . or perhaps “reborn” in flecks and hand prints. And your hands. Oh, your sweet, soft, artistic hands! Crayola has nothing on your spontaneous ethnically diverse hands, and as you walk away from the piece of art, walk away from a community, walk away from a magical mark made on a once ordinary wall, you start to pick at and peel off the layers and layers of paint caked on your hands.
I was going to talk about peeling back all that paint: rubbery, colorful, flexible, almost like a second skin. And once it’s all gone, once you’ve gotten home and scrubbed off those last dots, what do you have left? Clean, unadulterated, reborn You. It’s you without the usual academic epithet, without the friends and family holding you up, without anything but you, yourself, and soulja boi — “YOOUUUUUUU . . . crank dat.”
That’s what graduating is like. That’s what graduating was like. You’re suddenly forced to face You in all of your glory—all of your smudges and specks of paint.
And it’s unfortunate I didn’t write the piece back then. It would have been honest. It would have been therapeutic.
But here I am, no longer graduating, but rather graduated. It sounds silly, but it really does have a whole different feeling to it. A whole different perspective to it.
It’s very own vantage point.
As new graduates, we hold a strange space in this world. Liminal they would call it in anthropology. While some of us quickly rush off to our future careers (lawyers, doctors, professional procrastinator) and the rest of us decide to take some time off (traveler, worker, amateur procrastinator), all of us, each and every single one, are placed in a strange in-between. We’re no longer students, but we’re not quite accepted as adults.
It’s a strange place to stand. And it gives us an even stranger view of our place in the world.
As a writer, I often find myself observing instead of directly engaging. Imagining and dreaming, instead of acting and working. It’s really not so bad. While the rest of you are applying for residency in Small-Talk Town, I’m off fighting off aliens and flying on the back of dragons. But it doesn’t always appear as glamorous as it might seem. Now, that’s not to say that I’m some hermit who goes by “Plays With Squirrels.” But, you’re more likely to find me in the corner of a room before you see me dancing on top of the table at a bar. But throw on some Queen and I might be telling different story.
I’m just a little silhouetto of a man.
SCARAMOUCHE! SCARAMOUCHE! WILL YOU DO THE FAN . . . dang . . . oh . . . anyways . . .
Sometimes, if you look in just the right way, you can see the whole world from the corner of a room. I love the corner. I love being a fly on the wall. But looking back on the past 17 years of my life — looking forward into the fog of the future — I realize that sometimes it’s important to step out from corner of the room and head straight for the door. All you have to do is open it.
And that’s our vantage point. Or perhaps, Advantage point. We’re standing at the fulcrum for the rest of our lives. Or at the very least for the rest of one of our lives (i.e. the next 2 to 5 to 7 to 25 to . . . well you get the point, years of our lives). We’ve finished a task that was set for us before we were even born: win big on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire!”
No, that’s not right. I meant: survive until you’re in your twenties. It’s harder than just graduating from college, it covers a lot more people, and it’s just as important. It puts us here, at the verge of our diminishing youth with prospects (or a lack there of) for future glory.
So many doors have closed behind us in our pursuits. Yet so many more are waiting to be opened. But, my fellow youth — my fellow adults — are you ready to stand up and cross the room?
You start to turn the knob . . .