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It’s graduation time for the class of 2012. We’re seated in the pews of the Second Presbyterian Church, on the corner of 96th and CPW, awaiting the arrival of the newly minted high school graduates. My mind is wandering all over the place. 

First, I try to figure out how I’m supposed to survive the next two hours crammed into a seat obviously not designed for someone of my stature. When anything makes an airline seat seem spacious, that’s saying a lot. From there, my mind began to drift back to my high school experiences and all things associated with that era. 

Yeah, it’s been long enough now to be officially classified as an “era.” The year I graduated from high school was the same year Napster made its debut. Remember Napster?!? Although I remember my high school days as if they were yesterday, the reality is that it has been 12 years. Another subtle reminder that I’m kind of old, but I’m also okay with that…kind of.  

The procession begins and as the class files in, friends and family begin to snap away on their plethora of cameras and i-Devices. One can’t help but appreciate the significance of these milestone moments. The gleam in the eyes of these young adults is clearly evident. Some are more excited than others because they now believe they’ll finally be free of their supposedly overbearing parents.

That is until they realize that the clean laundry doesn’t magically appear in their rooms like it used to, or that you actually have to put food in the fridge to get it out later. At that point they’ll be calling home faster than E.T. That being said, graduation day is as much a day of reckoning for the parents as it is for the kids.
They are forced to confront the reality that their baby is about to step into adulthood, and there is no certainty what that will mean for their relationship going forward. While I imagine that some parents actually can’t wait that moment, I think for most it’s really a bittersweet experience.
As the first senior speaker takes the stage, my wandering mind quickly snaps back to focus. As is par for the course, she begins by reminiscing about her and her friends’ time in high school: academic accomplishments, defining moments, boys they like, girls they hate, Justin Bieber…the usual stuff. Once all that was out of the way, the focus shifted to how this graduating class, and others, would be coming into what is one of the toughest economies this country has seen in a long time.

She talked about how in order to truly succeed and find fulfillment in the future, this generation was going to have to change the paradigm of how their parents and past generations did things. She talked about seeing the opportunities in the unconventional. She talked about a need for more poets.
Now, I don’t particularly care for poetry, but I do get the point she’s making. We live in an age where a lot of people have sacrificed so much to pursue jobs they care so little for, all in the name of security. The problem is that opportunities that once seemed like stable rocks are now proving to not be so sure of a thing anymore.  

Hence, many people, either unhappy with their current state or fired from their current state, are beginning to reassess exactly what dream they bought into. All of a sudden, the tradeoff of security and stability for passion and fulfilment doesn’t seem to have the same allure it once did. While success has long been defined by the number of zeros attached to the end of the paycheck rather than fulfillment in what you do, the rat race can only suck the lifeblood out of you for so long before you starts to really question if it’s really worth it.  
While some people find a way to live with that dichotomy, it would be nice if it didn’t always have to be such a defining choice. That being said, it’s also true that the struggle is the litmus test that weeds out the contenders from the pretenders. Lord knows that the only thing worse than poetry is bad poetry. 

Ultimately the ones who find success in what they are passionate about are those with resolve and conviction. Resolve and conviction strong enough to stay the course through all the hardships, disappointments, and discouraging voices telling them to stop wasting their time and get a real job. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it quite succinctly when he said, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Wise words. 

Maybe those poets aren’t so bad after all.
Featured Image by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash

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