Sunday, June 22, 2008


I was nervous when my editor told me that I could have a weekly column. It's not unlike a blog is. I found myself furiously wondering who would be reading it and if anyone would like it...

I was going to ruminate on change.... How difficult it can be to adapt to it - whether it's a new desk in a new building with new co-workers or a new leader promising new direction for a nation struggling to get back on its feet.

I considered the subject of the state of journalism itself ... because I have always attached a certain degree of romanticism to its character. The fast talking, always moving, always typing men and women who enjoy a drink here and there, keep their sleeves rolled up, tend to chain smoke - and believe they can change the world. But even I have to admit that aside from catching CNN from time to time - I read most of my newspapers online and frequently check for headlines on my cell phone. I too, am contributing to the demise of the public freedom I hold dear.

Serious subjects because as an adult I'm supposed to consider serious things...

But I decided to write about fifth grade.

Tuesday night, I attended the fifth grade graduation for the daughter of one of my best friends. As pictures of the children sitting proudly in front of all their parents played out in a projected montage -pictures of them from their academic start in kindergarten to their fifth grade year - I began to wonder. What was going to become of them as they enter the uncertainty of middle school and later the daunting halls of high school?

My inner cynic - she comes out from time to time - thought about the high school seniors whose speeches I'd listened to covering graduations in the area over the past couple of weeks. They all spoke ideally and I couldn't help but think of how I'd been in their shoes once. I'd thought I had it all figured out. I thought I had a good grasp on what college and the future would hold. Thought I had mapped out all the standard uncertainties and challenges while perfecting a master plan to being an adult - dodging the stereotypical pitfalls because I was going to be the one to do so.

But being an adult is thinking you have 'it' all figured out ... and realizing you're going to have to figure it all out again. And again.

Tears fell from the eyes of truly proud mothers, including the one sitting next to me, as their fifth graders stepped up to receive their certificates. Parents cry for their children, my inner cynic said. No doubt those certificates will get stuffed into a drawer somewhere. Lost and forgotten by the time they reach their own high school commencement.

And then the kids started to cry. Not all of them. But a few. They started to cry as they received their certificates and awards. As they realized they were leaving one school for another ... And my inner cynic shut her mouth.

Maybe, I thought, as adults we don't cry purely out of sentimentality when we recognize our children are growing up. Maybe it's because we realize that we've grown up. Maybe the idealistic notions of our teenagers that it's possible for them to 'figure it all out' better than we ever did aren't idealistic at all. Maybe they just seem that way in the absence of the confidence we used to have that we could figure it out for ourselves.

Maybe instead of trying so hard to be a beacon of inspiration to our kids ... we could stand to soak up a little inspiration from them. Because they find pride in just being present. And they can go for hours laughing for no reason. They don't count the calories when grabbing a piece of cake and they can fall out of trees - and not think twice about getting back up. They work hard. They play hard. But most importantly ... they play.

And when you think about it ... that's pretty serious, heavy, world changing stuff.

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