Our graduation memories
Sunday marks graduation day universities across the nation, including Marquette University and UWM. Tomorrow, young adults – full of hope, full of potential ... and some probably full of alcohol – will march across a stage and right into their future, where ... well, who knows.
In honor of the latest bunch of young people about to head into the joyously crazed and unpredictable mess we call adult life, we at OnMilwaukee.com dug around through our memory vaults and found some graduation memories to share – as well as a little bit of advice for the class of 2015. Congratulations to all the new graduates – and their deservedly proud families – and see you out in the world.
My biggest recollection of graduation is that it was hot. Very hot. May 19 on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument was a scorcher, and we were wearing polyester. I don't remember a bit of that Supreme Court Justice's commencement speech. However, I do remember saying goodbye to my DC friends and heading to Milwaukee.
My graduation advice? Try everything and be humble. The money will follow. You can sleep when you're dead. Follow your career dreams when you're young and poor, because it gets harder when you have a house and a family. Build your brand. Write a lot. Go out on Tuesday nights. Surround yourself with good people. Be self-depreciating and keep your sense of humor.
Staff writer/film critic
My graduation had the usual memories – taking photos, tearfully hugging goodbye to friends, roasting in those dark polyester muumuus. If there's one memory that sticks with me most, however, it's certainly the now bizarreness of an arena full of smiling families and excited young graduates avidly listening to life advice doled out by none other than commencement speaker Bill Cosby. Yeah ... oof. Bet Marquette wishes they could get that one back.
As for advice, it seems a little silly and disingenuous to pass out words of wisdom considering I'm barely three years older than most graduates this weekend. But I will say this: Be strong in your convictions, but also try see and understand the world outside of your own life experience. The world – and especially Twitter – needs fewer mindlessly outraged opinions and more mindful, compassionate ones.
Also: Like, 50 full episodes of "Legends of the Hidden Temple" are up on YouTube. You're welcome.
I went to four graduations during my school career: sixth grade, junior high, high school and college. I wasn't especially eager to attend any of them, to be honest. They were long, with lots of yakking. I do remember a nice photo of my parents and I outside PS 199 when I completed grammar school, but I can barely remember my junior high graduation at a movie theater in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
What I do remember were the "rehearsals," especially the one when the egg-shaped assistant principal was speaking and sat atop a desk onstage. The desk broke like a Hollywood fall-away prop, much to his horror and our misanthropic teenage glee. The graduation that probably was most life-changing for me was high school. The morning after the ceremony at Madison Square Garden, I got into my parents' station wagon and moved to Milwaukee, where six years later, I graduated from UWM at the Arena. Or was it the Auditorium? Hmmm.
Graduation was terribly boring and unmemorable for me, but here is some advice: After all that study and all those finals it's easy to think you know everything and, at the same time, feel like you know absolutely nothing. What advice can possibly cover that spread?
Recently, I unearthed a bunch of pictures of myself that I hadn't seen for 15 or 20 years. They were intriguing and disturbing. I look at the me in those pictures, and I see a person who is obviously a younger me, but I feel an extreme dischordance between the me of then and the me of today. I can't relate to that person. I actually experience strong, physical feelings of revulsion when I look at that person.
The inexperience. The over-confidence. The bitter emotional swings. The terrible fashion sense.
But as sick as those images make me, it makes me happy that my personal growth didn't stall. I'm happy that I can't relate to that person. I'm happy that even though one side of me thought I had it all figured out, the other side of me continued experimenting with who I was, continued asking thoughtful questions and examining every answer. I continued to study and find constructive ways to tear down and rebuild my life until I am the person I am today.
Part of me hopes that in 20 years I won't look back on my current self with such disdain. That part wants to believe that I'm closer to figuring it out. But if I do get to the future, look back and feel those same strong feelings of disgust, would that really be so bad?
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1996 with a degree in English. At the time, I was eager to leave college and move on with my life. Within two years of working a full-time job, I realized how stimulating and fun it is to be a student. I have considered going back to school for a master's degree; I even enrolled once, but – sadly – I am unable to justify the expense.
My only advice is for anyone in college to enjoy it as much as you can because when it's over, for many of us, it's truly over forever. Also, take out as little as you can for student loans. I'm almost 19 years (gulp) out and still paying 'em off. That trip to Europe in '94 was a good time, though.
My five standard tips that I use in class room and "graduation-like" presentations are:
- Be persistent, not a pain in the ass.
- Follow the Golden Rule.
- Do what you love, but maybe not right away.
- Make a plan, write down goals but know that life is a musical score.
- Learn more and listen better.
Oddly, I can't remember who my commencement speaker was. But in the years after I left, MU had the likes of Barbara Bush, Fred Rodgers, Henry Aaron and other big names. I try to attend MU gradations even if I don't know anyone graduating. I love them and always look forward to hearing the messages. Great way to find inspiration and know that the future's in good hands!
I ran a full-speed lap around the parking lot, woo-hooing like an idiot after the ceremony. It was good to be done. I may have attempted a cartwheel. Afterward, I also noticed my department head watching the whole thing. No matter; it was good to be done.
Advice? You have plans; that's good. Most of them won't turn out, and that's good, too. Learn to adapt.
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