Monday, May 19, 2008

Grad Speech '08: Live With Knuckleheads

There are rows of chairs and school banners on the Mall, a flurry of grandmas and country cousins at D.C.'s elegant restaurants, and an influx of Abercrombie in offices across the city. It must be grad season again. Originally, I thought I might be lazy and refer you to my graduation manifesto from last year.

But then I realized something. I graduated from Carolina exactly ten years ago. What does that make me, besides a dried-up bitter old hag? It makes me weepy and nostalgic.

Ten years ago this week, I wandered the grounds of Kenan Stadium looking for friends to sit with. Instead, I ran into Ben, who was once a member of my anthropology group project, "Cherokee Methods for the Prevention of Inbreeding." He invited me to sit with his friends. They turned out to be Kallisti, the campus pagan society. I spent what was supposed to be a big happy me-me-me moment of my life watching pagans cast spells in an attempt to accelerate the endless drone of Marian Wright Edelman, who offered a family-friendly inspirational speech about a woman who had nothing to feed her baby besides ketchup and water. (Now, I do have compassion for babies who eat nothing but ketchup...but, as my mom put it, "Wow, bummer." Who wants that for a grad speech?)

The day I graduated, I moved into a townhouse in Raleigh with two roommates. One swore she was straight, despite all the evidence to the contrary (including, a, ahem, girlfriend). The other couldn't decide whether to ditch her boyfriend, Wayne, for his identical twin, Dwayne. She also sold my jewelry to buy pot.

My childhood home in Woodbridge had been sold years before. My parents had split up, my mom went back to Australia, and my dad had moved into a camper by the creek. To this day, I am convinced they did all this just so I couldn't move in with them (wily, aren't they?). So my only choice was to muddle along on my own. Sometimes you have to learn stuff the hard way. I moved into a cheap basement apartment with a beer-can shower and never looked back.

So my advice this year: Get out there and see how much life can suck! Don't play it safe, don't move back to the nest. Meet some pagans, promiscuous knuckleheads and assorted weirdos. Build a coffee table out of ramen crates. Embrace the next stage. Be a grownup. In the journey to adulthood, the milestones matter a whole lot less than the daily details.

In closing, here are some "daily detail" moments when you know you've become a full adult, contributing member of society, and all-around cool dude:

1. When you tell your parents about all the stupid stuff you did in high school, and you find out they knew all along.
2. When you give up your seat on the Metro to that Starbucks barista who was probably on her feet all day.
3. When all the bills get paid on time.
4. When you realize you don't need half the stuff you own.
5. When you go to dinner with family, and you pick up the check.
6. When you value your life for what it is, and learn the value of contentment, but continue to reach for big dreams.
7. When you admit that restaurant is out of your budget, instead of going along and seething. In fact, when you learn to speak up for yourself in general, instead of seething.
8. When you learn to negotiate salaries, prices, and whose turn it is to wash the dishes.
9. When you hate your job, but resign with dignity instead of stomping out like a preteen ninny.
10. When you love your job, but realize it's only a small part of your life.


Jo said...

Your list confirms it. I'm an adult. That's kinda sad.

Shannon said...

Sorry, Jo, you have crossed into the Land of the Old!

Gilahi said...

Osiyo! (We'll see how much Cherokee you studied). I thought their method for inbreeding was simply to consider everyone in their clan a relative. They could marry within any of the other 6 clans, but not their own.

Sorta the opposite of most royal families.

Wait... did I miss the entire point of your blog?

Ibid said...

Graduations are a humongous waste of time. When I tried to duck my high school graduation Mom and I worked out a compromise. I'd either go to my high school or college graduation and Mom got to pick which. She picked high school figuring I'd change my mind or forget. I didn't. Instead I slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, packed a few last things into the car, got some reading done, and showed up to a friend's graduation party.
I think I was the only person who enjoyed that day.

Shannon said...

Gilahi, you're correct! My dad speaks a little Cherokee, I speak none. The only word I know is shenan ("star"), as that's where my name comes from.

Ibid, I used to wish I'd skipped my grad ceremony, but now I'm glad I watched a bunch of pagans cast hexes on Marian Wright Edelman. Now, high school graduations are a total waste. And eighth grade grads/proms are the stupidest thing ever.

Ibid said...

I just read your manifesto.

Fall in love. Get squashed. Repeat as necessary.

I'm in the advanced class. I always skip straight to step two.

Shannon said...

Ibid - remarkably efficient, except that you're skipping the fun part!