Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘graduation’

Sunday musings 6/3/18: 40th Reunion Thoughts

2018 is the year of my 40th high school reunions (we moved after my freshman year so I have two). It’s a nice time to return to one of my frequent themes, identity. Who are you when you are all alone, just you and the mirror? Who are you when you are in any particular group of people? Do you feel that there is more confluence between those versions of you than not? How much confluence do you think there is between who you think you are and who it is that those around you think you are? As this is my 40th year away from my classmates, have you evolved from who you thought you were and who your classmates thought you were over the years?

First a couple of disclaimers. One should not be all that too terribly concerned about the thoughts of others since this gives all too much power to individuals who may not have your best interests at heart. Sorry, but our world is altogether too filled with people who will opt to climb over your downtrodden psychological carcass if you allow them to do so. Also, there is no reason for you to ossify as an individual at any stage of your life. Indeed, if you haven’t evolved since high school you’re probably doing it wrong.

Over the years I admit that I have not made much of an effort to remain in contact with the vast majority of my classmates in either of my childhood towns. I could certainly lay the blame for that on my Dad who held that true friendships were rare and the effort to stay in touch with acquaintances too arduous for the ROI. The truth is more that I’ve always done the deepest dive possible into whatever ocean of opportunity I happened to be sailing on at any given moment; those oceans have always been rather distant from the shores of my youth. It was simply too hard and too time consuming to maintain a large number of close contacts behind as I was ever looking ahead. Looking back there is no way to know if this was the best strategy. Like my Dad, though, I have tried to be the best friend I could be to those who were with me at any given time.

Today Facebook has made it rather easy to re-forge ties, however delicate the fibers may be. These tiny, tenuous connections have me very curious about my childhood mates in both towns. Much to the surprise (and amusement) of my family I have found myself moving all kinds of the chess pieces of my life so that I might attend both reunions. Who will I meet when I do? With the exception of a very few people I still do chat with, so many years have passed that literally everyone I see will be someone I am pretty much meeting for the first time.

40 years is a lot of years of growth and change.

Who will my classmates be meeting when they see me for the first time in at least 30 years (I went to one school’s 10th)? Judging by a post on our Reunion FB page in which a classmate unearthed some commentary about our class from graduation day I will be largely unrecognizable. You see (and this gets back to who you think you are and who others see you as being) what I once thought of as self-assurance and confidence came across (to some people at least) as self-centeredness and arrogance. This is not really a revelation mind you, nor is the re-appearnace of this item from Graduation Day distressing. I’ve long held that I was an arrogant putz when I was a young man, although that may have been a part of whatever successes I may have accrued over the years; I pretty much always assumed I was gonna turn out OK.

What does bother me though, at least the me of the last 20 or so years, is the possibility (probability?) that my younger self may have run roughshod over people who didn’t deserve anything rough out of me at all. That does make me sad, frankly. You see, a large part of my own personal development, the ongoing changes to the person I try to see in the mirror (and project for any and all to see in me) is a foundation of kindness in all that I do and in all that I am. It’s hard–no, impossible– to be good at all times, and I’m not sure at all that you can be truly kind always and everywhere. But you can try, and it is in the trying that I have evolved over the years.

Who will my classmates remember as they think about our upcoming reunions? Will our memories of the children we were be so strong that we will be prevented from seeing the adults we have become? Regardless it’s been an interesting part of the journey to be reminded of who people thought I was so long ago and to peruse the pages of each intervening “Yearbook” as I’ve gone from cocky teenage jock to whatever it is I am today.

Wow. 40 years.

The Sands of Time

The world, life, has always seemed to me to be as an hourglass, the tiny individual grains of sand appearing at the mouth of the funnel from nowhere. The top is empty, after all, else we’d know to the grain how long our lives.

So there, just above the narrow tunnel between “to be” and “been” appears a moment, on its way to becoming a memory, in that fleeting time of “now”. From there it falls through to join other moments come and gone. These we can see, of course, as they fill the bottom of the hourglass. Shake the glass and they come into view.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that my hourglass was nearly empty? So few grains of time that the bottom was barely dusted? Isn’t that my Mom and Dad right there in that huge Chevy wagon? Man, it’s PACKED with beach stuff. There I am in the “way-back” sitting on top of the chairs and towels. 4 kids in the car; we can’t sit together, of course, because someone might touch someone else! They were so big, my folks, they filled up the horizon. So small now…so fragile…shadows that flit in and out of view.

There’s a goldfinch feeder just outside our window. This morning 6 finches crowded around, a vision of bright yellow, a first for us in our new house. Goldfinches always make me think of my firstborn, Danny. Wasn’t it just last week when we stood, his shoulder to  my chest, atop that observatory, gazing at the display of aerial artistry as hawks and finches dazzled across the field? The bright, curly yellow hair is long shorn, now replaced by a bright red beard. My head is now at his shoulder, but the appearance of a Goldfinch at my breakfast nook still brings back that ever so soft, quiet exclamation: “I really love birds, Dad.”

My caboose, Randy, sang at his Baccalaureate, ready to graduate from High School. Beth and had just become Netty Empsters. How can that be? When did that grain of sand appear? Can we really be here already? Shake the glass just a little and there he is in his Spider Man jammies, the first day of football, “hey Dad, I’m taller than you!” They keep appearing at the mouth of the funnel, another and another and another grain as the sands of my time flow. Can it really be? Are we really here ALREADY? When I report for work at my “second job” at CrossFit Bingo I’ll begin by greeting my boss. Kid named Randy.

I know it was only last week. Had to be right? We stood there in the threshold, hand in hand. One more step and we’d be all the way there, all the way inside school and surely we’d make it to class on time. Longest step ever taken, but away we went, Megan and I. How could it be, then, that I was Facetiming her graduation ceremony from grad school, the proud recipient of a Masters Degree in Psychology? Yet there it is, a grain of sand scoots down the tassel and joins the rest of the milestones in the bottom of my glass.

The hourglass sits afore me, the sand flows. I see Randy as he looks toward me, looks as I fill his horizon. My gaze drifts toward my Mom and Dad; they are barely a rise in Randy’s sand. Grains appear for me, one after the other. I see behind, before, in the bottom of my hourglass. I stare at the funnel, stare as if I look hard enough the top of the hourglass will fill, I’ll see “to be”.

It’s not possible, of course, you know that. It’s so trite, so trivial, but no less true that the sands pour through more swiftly than we can follow. The less we attend to them the faster they pour. The less attention we pay the harder it is to see them as they settle in the bottom of the glass; we miss them as they pass and then can’t find them as they settle among the other grains of our time. To find them in the bottom of the hourglass we must see them as they pass through the funnel from top to bottom, look right at them lest they be nothing more than shadows.

Where did they all go, those grains, those sands of my time? How many did I miss, shadows on my horizon?


Transition, 2.0: “The Heir” Graduates From College!

My oldest child Dan, known around my Crossfit buddies as “The Heir”, has reached a very significant milestone. On June 4th in front of his Mom and Dad, sister, brother, and grandparents, Dan graduated from college and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s an inflection point. Call it Transition 2.0. I wrote a little bit about graduations when Megan, “Lovely Daughter”, graduated from high school in 2008. Here’s an excerpt:


“The next stage. “Lovely Daughter” graduates from high school tomorrow. Now, in our family this would not typically be a very big deal, not a very big step. We are very fortunate chez Bingo, and by and large we try very hard to realize this good fortune. It has been for several generations not a matter of whether you graduated from high school but what you did and where you went from there. This was certainly the case with “The Heir”.

But “Lovely Daughter” had challenges that could not be foreseen, a difficult battle with illness that continues today, one that prevented her from attending school as a “regular” student for the better part of two years. With the assistance of Mrs. Bingo and others, but largely through the force of her own will, “Lovely Daughter” has been able to leave the darkness behind and live in the light (although, to be sure, the darkness lurks behind, always in the mirror, always there). Despite not being in school those years she will graduate on time, with her original class, 4.0 grade point in hand, and move on to her next step in college.”


Dan, on the other hand, was quite ready to move on to college some time in the Spring of his sophomore year in high school. Frankly, there were times that his Mom and Dad were ready for him to head off to college around then, too! Seriously, Dan is so bright and so able that it is always really just a question of ‘what’ and ‘when’ he will move on to the next great adventure, the next triumph. Maybe that’s why this whole college thing seemed to go by so very quickly. I mean, really, wasn’t it just last year that we were moving on from Jr. High to High School? Choosing all-boy parochial vs. public? And c’mon…I’m SURE it can’t have been more than 2 or 3 years ago that Danny (he was Danny back then!) was pulled, kicking and screaming and ferociously clutching the steering wheel of the mini-van on the way to kindergarten. Right?

Man, it all went so fast.

I tried to hold on to each precious moment. Really, I did. Even whacky stuff like lacrosse in a monsoon, I told myself I’d miss it when it was gone. Pay attention! Pre-school to grade school; grade school to middle school; middle school to high school; college to, well, who really knows? I really DO remember the graduations, each one of them. I was there for each of them, for Dan and Megan and Randy, both physically and mentally. As fast as it’s all gone I can make it slow down by playing the “tape”  of each one back in my mind.

It goes so fast, you know. All of it. It makes me wonder why people are always in such a rush to get to that next place, whatever that next place might be. Kids in such a hurry to grow up. Parents in such a hurry to have the kids grow up. I don’t get it. Even when it was tough–face it…this parenting stuff is nothing if not tough–I never really got the whole hurry up thing. Heck, it’s FUN to be a kid rolling in a big ‘ol mud puddle, and it’s fun to be the parent hosing said kid off after shooing him back outside after he fouled the front hallway. You just don’t get to DO that stuff after awhile.

I tried. Really, I tried to take it all in. To be OK with wherever and whenever we happened to be. You know, to be just fine with the graduation at hand and not so much into what was going to lead up to the next graduation. How’d I do? Man, it all went so fast, I’m sure I could have done a better job at it.

We are not promised tomorrow. If tomorrow comes we are not promised a “good” tomorrow. If we lead a virtuous life, whatever that may mean for each of us, we hope that our efforts will translate into a “good”, or at least “better”, tomorrow. Or not.

All we have is graduation today.  And every today has something, some thing little or big, that makes it a good day. Each of our privations, every challenge can be borne if we realize that there is some one thing, or some several things, that are good in each day. What we hope for is tomorrow, and that tomorrow might be as good, or better, than today. But what we HAVE is today. In the end, that’s all we ever have.

There was a time when I awoke each day and checked to make sure that I was still the father of a daughter. EVERY day was a good day. There’s nothing particularly special about this today, about Saturday June 14, 2011, except that this was the day we had, and it was Dan’s college graduation. Transition 2.0, but a day to cherish all on its own without too very much thought about transitioning to “what”. And I was there. Really, really there.

What’s good for you today? Who’s special to you today? Did you tell them? Do they know? You may not have a tomorrow you know, but if you are reading “Random Thoughts” you DO have today. You don’t have to be a parent for this to be so, but I’m here to tell ya, the today’s go reeeeeally fast. You slow them down by letting yourself be there, today. Because as fast as they go, there are really only two kinds of “todays”, good ones and great ones.

And man, they go by so fast.