Just in from commencement ceremonies, and we had about 102 walk across the stage tonight. They're off on an all-night party right now, properly chaperoned, pampered, and with activities planned for the whole evening. They're not really adults yet, and no longer children. After the festivities tonight, they'll sleep for a while tomorrow, then the realization will set in. They're through with high school and it's time to do something with their lives. And it starts today. Many of them will try to postpone the reckoning with college, some of them will slump into laggardly habits, some of them will chose vocations.
It was different when I graduated. The various service recruiters were salivating at the prospect of a new group of high school graduates. The draft was still in full force, Vietnam had another four years before we left with our tails tucked between our legs, and young boys were dieing over there every day. Many of my classmates took a senior trip to Saigon. Of course in those days we were expected to grow up fast. We had all the privileges of adulthood at age 18. We could drink, we could smoke, we could vote and start families. We could be called into the service to get our young butts shot up in some foreign land, but we had all the privileges of adulthood.
Somehow, in the intervening years, adulthood has become something that you work your way into. It takes several years to gain all the privileges of full adulthood. We never bothered with any of that because we were expected to grow up quickly and begin fulfilling our destiny. We were expected to act like adults and assume the responsibilities of adulthood, and I believe that we did that just fine. If someone had suggested, on the night that I graduated from high school, that I get on a bus and go on a safe, pampered, chaperoned trip, I would have laughed in his face. I had a date with a cocktail waitress. A little redheaded gal as I recall.
I really don't think any of those kids who got on that bus tonight are ready for adulthood. They haven't earned it.