One Man’s Opinion: ConGRADuation Day

Graduation Days are among those most memorable milestones and touchstones of life. They are often seen more as an end to one phase, while I have always chosen to view the ceremony as well as the Pomp & Circumstance noting entrance into life’s next phase. These ceremonies now start as early as kindergarten, continuing through elementary, middle school, and high school...as well as later for many college and post-graduate degrees. This plethora of caps and gowns do tend to blend over time, and the sheer number I feel tends to water down the impact and the significance of those later and more significant school finishes and degrees.

For many families, this graduation season will celebrate many firsts. First family member to graduate from college, from medical school, the first scholar to become immediately employed following the graduation ceremony, etc... Each of those capstone events is worthy of commemoration and salutation as well as multi-selfie taking and sharing on social media.

Higher education is increasingly over-priced, and much of your college and post-graduate experience is as much about socialization, developing people skills, and critical thinking as it is about the subject matter or your specific area of focus and study. Without argument, there are some degrees and certainly, academic institutions where the bar is set higher and the academic rigors are greater. But this chat is not about that.

Your college years are a time for personal exploration, experimentation, and hopefully the broadening of your mind. Even in the most controlled and private college campus environment, you have hopefully been exposed to others who don’t think or look like you do, whose life experiences and formed opinions come through a different lens and perspective. You have come to both note and appreciate these differences as the world today, particularly in urban areas, is much more a tapestry than a pile of clean, pressed linens.

All the marvels of electronic communication, and the internet replacing libraries as the ultimate study and research tool...as well as the seeming shift from actual conversation to virtual communication via text, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media platforms have both made the world smaller, AND at times increased the distance between actual people. I truly can’t understand the often witnessed scene of a group of students, of all gender, races, and cultures...seated together at a meal, or sharing an event or gathering, EACH fixated on their phone screen, taking a selfie or engaged in conversation with someone else NOT actually present.

I’m not suggesting never using your phone in public again, but I would ask you to consider, with friends, family, your prospective employers, and clients/customers ahead of you...the person WITH and in front of you should be MORE important than the person texting, sharing a Meme, or wanting to chat. Yes, emergencies occur and those take priority, but try and remember how you felt the last time you were having a deeply personal conversation, or even flirting with someone new to you, and they suddenly turn to or answer their phone and spend quite some time in that interaction, putting you in effect on hold. I bet you didn’t like it.

PEOPLE and their feelings matter more than an instant response to a text or another social media platform. The loudest voices are often among the most opinionated and hostile. As an example, though Facebook allows me to keep in touch, and keep tabs on an old friend, acquaintance, or former classmate, it is by NO MEANS even remotely close to simply picking up the phone and calling that same person, or better yet, planning time for a shared meal or a visit.

Yes, some of you are geniuses, and employers will chase you down. I was fortunate to have several job offers awaiting me at a decent salary right out of college. I took one, but it really wasn’t my desired or chosen profession. That opportunity, which involved a LOT of pursuit time on my part, required a massive pay cut, relocation, and at least a year of dues-paying as I learned the ins and outs of broadcasting.

Nearing four decades after my last graduation ceremony, I still look incredibly fondly back on my college days, but it is the life and career experiences and particularly the occasional losses which followed that taught me the greatest lessons. Welcome to the real world, and Adulting, and all the good and the bad that comes with that. You have arrived on the first day of the rest of your life. Spend them wisely and ConGRADulations!

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