The oldest of my children – that being my darling daughter – graduates high school this week. That’s right, loyal reader: your friend and humble narrator is old enough to have a daughter graduating high school. And not because he got started as a teen parent, either: nope, I am legitimately old enough to have fathered an adult. And Happily, she will be a Michigan State Spartan, just like your friend and humble narrator.
Without a doubt, it’s been an emotional time around our house. All year long whenever something happened – Christmas, Thanksgiving, first day of school, etc. – there was always a little voice in the back of my head saying, “That’s the last time that will ever happen that way again.” And my self-reminders were on top of the overt reminders school and sports put on these moments: senior night suddenly meant something different as the parent of a senior athlete; the silly candle-lighting ceremony at the end of the year had a new depth; and of course, the graduation ceremony actually matters to me, because I have a graduate.
Under the circumstances, it’s hard not to get emotional; only a psychopath wouldn’t. Harder still is dealing with the aggressive reminders that my life is changing, and not just in a little way. No, it’s changing in the biggest of ways. To the extent that the life I’ve lived for the past 18 years will be coming to an abrupt end in the very near future and one of the fundamental relationships in my life will never be the same.
For my daughter, the freedom and impeding adventure must be exciting – frightening and exciting. How could it not be? She’s going off to college, where she’ll be exposed to new people, new ideas, new experiences and will be put on the course to doing great things. Thinking about the opportunities she’ll have, and the reality that she can still accomplish anything, is exciting.
For me, though, there is no impeding adventure. No, it’s just the payoff on the year of constant, unrelenting trauma.
In a word, I’m melancholic.
Curiously, though, as depressing as it is that my first born is flying the coop, to possibly never need me again in any of the ways she’s ever needed me before, is sitting through the graduation ceremonies. Sure, it’s a happy time and I’m glad to see my daughter doing well, but seeing all those other kids, full of smiles and promise and hope for the future and knowing the disappointment the vast majority of them will have in their lives, is absolutely devastating.
Worse is the knowledge that the disappointed kids could very well include my own.
It’s a hard thing being an adult because I know that, for all the potential these kids have, many will waste it. Some will only waste a bit, others will waste it all. And seeing how positive they are, and ignorant of the reality waiting out there for them, is the ultimate kick in the balls.
As an optimist, I hope they aren’t disappointed. I don’t want them to compromise and deal with failure. I want them to succeed – my kid especially. I want their youth and exuberance to lead to great things in the future. I want this graduation to be the springboard to exceptionalism, not the quick slide into the life of mediocrity it is likely to be.
But even as a realist, I’m also a bit jealous. I long for the days of that sort of youthful ignorance. To have that back, if only for a moment, would be priceless. I wonder if these kids even understand the value of the gift they’ve been given.
 As opposed to some ridiculous elementary or junior high graduations, otherwise known as, charades.
 It’s depressing to realize how old I am.
 I guess this is a thing now – the seniors light a candle with the juniors to symbolize passing the torch.
 Or my wife.