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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Graduation Day

I remember looking out over the crowd of people. My parents had a video camera. The administration looked uneasy. Something had happened to me in the three months prior to that day. There had been a shift in my good boy philosophy. I'd been doing things good boys don't do. I'd been doing things then reviewing statutes of limitations to figure out when I could tell certain tales of misspent youth.

In the weeks leading up to that day, someone in a position of power had approved a benign graduation speech I had written. I'd been slated as the last speaker of the program. It seemed obvious, as I started quoting Charles Manson, that the prepared speech had gone the way of the dodo.

I launched into five minutes of instruction to look outside the little town of Willard, Missouri. Find yourselves somewhere else. Don't believe that the Chemistry teacher (and he knew exactly who he was) was right when he said you'd be a failure. Then, as a nod to a few select people in the crowd, I raised my hand in a curious gesture (not the one you think) and bid my fellow graduates good luck.

I left the stage in the middle of a standing ovation and rarely looked back.

It took me four years to get to that point. Four years to understand what graduation really meant. It was not validation, as some might have me believe. It was barely a rite of passage.

It simply was the end of four years of learning how to be a better person and believe in myself.

It ended up taking me five years to get through college (sometimes it takes longer to learn). When I left Mizzou, though, I felt the same way. I graduated and became a better, more experienced person. I was by no means perfect. But I was better.

This morning I woke up to my wife calling me a hotcake. Beyond being fairly bug-in-a-rug-snug in bed, I didn't know exactly what she meant. But as we exchanged "happy anniversary" wishes, I knew it didn't matter.

I've just finished four years of instruction on how to be a better person. I've had one primary instructor. She's done a fine job.

While the bumps in the road have sometimes been big, she's known exactly the right time to kick me in the nuts and tell me to fix what's broken. Like anyone who reads RER, she knows that I'm still working on what's next, and moreover, how to believe in myself.

But she's my biggest fan. And without fans (especially the big ones), we'd all overheat way too soon.

The beauty of this graduation day is that it only begins another round of instruction. This time, though, we learn together.

And what a time that will be.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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