Pomp and circumstance

 When I picked M. up on the side of the road for graduation, we noticed we were wearing matching purple lacy tights, but mine looked silly because I was wearing sandals that I’d purchased earlier in the day without thinking about the tights.   I had dressed in the morning for the field, but remembered to throw a skirt in a bag. B. and I were in the field, getting wetter than I’ve been in a while (in clothes), the kind of wet where you can actually wring out your socks and capture significant amounts of smelly water, if you're that kind, which, by the way, I’m not. As I was wringing the socks out, I realized I had no shoes to wear to graduation, so we stopped at an outlet mall, dripped our way into a cheap shoe store to the horror of the employee, and bought these particular sandals with three seconds of consideration. I also purchased 3 pairs of bamboo argyle socks, but I stray from the point.  Since I’m already off topic, I’ll mention that B. also bought 6 pairs of dry socks, and then complained all day that the socks were causing his feet to hurt.  (I guess I didn't need to mention that the socks we bought were dry.)

M. and I grabbed a bite to eat (Her: taco with sweet potatoes and cojita cheese; me: taco with grilled Portabella and chilies. Yum.). A couple stopped at our table, laughing, on their way out of the restaurant, and said it was cute how we were wearing matching tights. We couldn’t exactly tell if they were laughing at us or with us, especially because I had that Germanic ‘I’m-wearing-tights-with-sandals-and-you-shouldn’t-mess-with-me’ look, not in a good way.

We walked to the ceremony and joined the small crowd. My favorite part occurred at the beginning, when the moderator announced that two students would go out of order because they were studying for a final and didn’t have time for alphabetical order. After brief remarks about their achievements and plans, they literally sprinted out of the room. I can’t remember ever having been in a situation where seconds count in studying for a final, but maybe that's the difference between caring a lot and being a slacker.

The speech by the director included a bit too much about himself -- how in high school, he exhausted all of the math offerings by 9th grade and was class valedictorian without even trying,  But who am I to comment on including too much about one’s self – making M’s graduation about my tights, for example.

But he did sum it up by saying “do well, but also do good.” I liked that, and would have elaborated a bit. You young people, who have the intelligence and eagerness to sprint towards a study session, use your gifts wisely. Solve problems, create peace, raise the bar in the world. You have the ability to make things happen; do that with thoughtfulness and integrity.

Afterwards, M. said she felt a little like an underachiever, because so many of these 18 and 19 year-olds had double and triple majors in hard subjects, like computational linguistics and molecular biology, with a minor in dance. I didn’t want to deliver the obvious parental lecture, how it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, as long as you’re happy, or the other even more obvious one, of “seriously? You feel like an underachiever because you’ve graduated with honors from a decent university at age 19, have semi-supported yourself financially for the last few years, and have wonderful friends who love you? Is that what underachieving looks like these days? Or the more snarky, hello, these over-achievers don’t look particularly happy.

Here’s an example conversation:

M: Hey, how’s it going?

Other Grad: Good.

M: What are you up to?

Other Grad: I’m starting on Monday as a program analyst at Morgan Stanley, where I’ll write a model to evaluate the differential between the blah blah blah. You?

M: I am landscaping two days a week.

Other Grad: Like, a landscape designer?

M: Um, no, the actual weeding and stuff.

Other Grad: Oh.

So instead of the lectures, which I know she didn’t need at all, I got her a piece of the three-layered chocolate cake.  With any luck, I'll use that as my new parenting strategy – when I’m a little choked up, a little in that place of “I know you already know this, but…” I’ll try to keep my mouth shut and just offer cake.


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