Commencement: Despite the dictionary definition, it’s just an ending

May 31, 1985

Dear Diary,

Commencement was tonight — I spoke. It was great — and worth it. Mrs. Soroko [a former boyfriend’s mother] and Bernie Nelson [a school counselor] were just two of the people who were full of compliments. Afterwards, I went to a ton of open houses.

I got lots of nice presents. It’s nice to know that so many people care.

I’m glad school is done. I didn’t even cry.

Ah, graduation: The culmination of all things high school. At the time, graduates feel like they’re on top of the world. I know I did. My senior year was no mountaintop experience. I dumped my perpetually depressed boyfriend, who proceeded to take up with one of my best friends (some best friend!) within 24 hours, leaving me to fret about my lack of boyfriendage in my diary for months (“I wish I had a boyfriend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” — yes, 15 exclamation points). I was voted student council president by all the other student council reps who earned their position by popularity and didn’t want to be bothered with actually doing anything, and I ran the group like a classical bureaucrat focused on maintaining the status quo – no lunchtime tabletop speeches that might tick off the principal in this rule-following girl’s bag of tricks, you betcha. And I spent a lot of time bemoaning bad hair days (“I highlighted my hair today. It’s horrible.”)

But I did get to speak at graduation. Wadena Senior High School, being the cosmopolitan crossroads of Central Minnesota, saved money on commencement speakers by having graduating seniors speak. I was among four valedictorians tapped for the honor. Though I’ve kept papers like “The Real and Imagined Worlds of Sylvia Plath” and “Mutual Security: A Presidential Brief Concerning United States-Soviet Union Relations” (which contains the poetic advice on international relations “Mr. President, we must begin somewhere. And we must keep in sight our goals no matter dark the trail or how slow the caravan”), I have no record of my stirring commencement speech. Should I ever be asked to speak at another commencement ceremony, I’ll have to, um, commence my address from scratch: “Commencement: To commence.” Perhaps I can work in another fine line from screenwriter Cameron Crowe in 1989’s “Say Anything,” from the mouth of Ione Skye as Diane Court: “I have glimpsed our future. And all I can say is … go back.”

I ran across this space filler in the May 24, 1985 edition of the Wadena Senior High Tomahawk, the ill-named student newspaper of which I was a co-editor (Wadena’s mascot at the time was the Indians which has since been changed). It’s filled with clichés 2012’s graduating seniors might be feeling about now. I might have written it though it’s uncredited:

The halls were empty. She closed her locker — slowly. Then she shuffled dow n the hall — she sighed when she walked by the Senior of the Week showcase.

It was a beautiful day outside — she smiled. Then she turned around.

“Goodbye Wadena Senior High School! Goodbye Mr. Westman. Goodbye Mrs. Theisen … Goodbye everybody …”

She started walking away from the school. Another chapter in her life had closed.

But there is still a whole book left to write.

Speaking of 2012 and books left to write, I’ve commissioned an artist to create cover art for my memoir. Click here to check it out on the blog about my book.

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One response to “Commencement: Despite the dictionary definition, it’s just an ending

  1. Pingback: Wistful thinking about graduation | Minnesota Transplant

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