I had occasion to attend a local commencement exercise recently and although I felt happy for the graduates, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of jealousy.
The whiner in me began thinking of how kids these days have a lot of advantages that older generations never had. Of course, I will admit to that being a good thing. After all, isn’t that the goal: to make a better life for our kids than what we experienced in our own lives? You bet. But, I’m still jealous.
Firstly, they’ve got their whole lives ahead of them while I’m left to wallow in “my winter of discontent," to borrow a word or two from the Bard. While I won‘t come right out and admit to being over the hill, it could be said that I’m teetering at the very apex, with a panoramic view of the valley, below. In other words, I realize that, for me and my generation, it’s all a downhill slide from here.
Still, I have to give kudos to those students who not only persevered through four years of high school, but who also found a way to shine, academically, athletically and socially during a very difficult time of life.
I know it’s difficult because I was there myself, once-upon-a-time. Of course, many of my difficulties were self-induced, but that’s another story. School can be tough. In fact, my senior year was so tough, we all drew combat pay just for showing up.
Okay, so I’m prone to exaggeration. But yes, it was, sometimes a rough ride.
Take our support system, for example. Though our guidance department was well-meaning, it was sometimes staffed by administrative wannabes who had to make the choice between this or cafeteria duty as the first rung on their own career ladders. How do I know this? They told us, so. “Study hard or you’ll end up with a job like this,” they lamented. “And you’ll be sorry, believe me.” Of course, we never listened to their advice, anyway, because: a) we knew it all and b) who’d take life-lessons from an administrative wannabe?
Beyond the high school campus, we could always seek out advice from our parents. Of course, back then, parenting skills were questionable, at best and echoing their own upbringing, their advice was usually delivered as either a sermon or an ultimatum. “College? What college? You’ll work at the factory like me and be thankful for a lifetime job with a good company. Whose gonna hire some know-it-all college kid?”
Today, there are a lot fewer factories and lifetime jobs are a rare commodity. So we send our kids off to become doctors, lawyers and high-tech researchers. We’re essentially depriving them of experiencing the joys of manual labor; a deprivation that I would have, gladly, embraced. And, it makes me jealous.
And what’s with all these high-tech toys: iPads and iPhones; notebooks and laptops; Twitters and tweets; MP3 players and the Facebook "like" button? When I roamed the hallowed halls of my alma mater, a rousing game of “Pong” was as good as it got. iPhone was something you did while firmly connected to a land-line. Tweets were a summertime-only phenomena, owing to the fact that, then, the windows could be opened and the birdies came through loud and clear. Notebooks were made of paper and music was made of plastic.
Back in the day, our chief method of getting to school was a black and yellow bus. The alternatives weren’t any better: wearing out the shoe-leather on our best $5 sneakers or risking frostbite in February by sticking the old thumb out at passing vehicles, whose drivers would, in reply, return their own digital salutes. So we walked, usually, which was probably for the best. Hey, if I showed up at school behind the wheel of a real car, the police would have to get involved, thinking I’d “borrowed” a ride.
My biggest source of envy, however, centers around the mere fact that today’s young people are, well … young. My only solace is in knowing that all-too-soon, that youth will morph into something that more closely resembles me. So far, at least, that’s a truism that even modern technology hasn’t conquered.
But, even as I whine; peeking out from beneath sunglasses, with green-eyed envy, I still have to give a tip of the hat to our younger generation and their accomplishments. In its own way, this modern-day world is just as complicated to maneuver as mine was, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
And although I’m not a wise man or even an administrative wannabe, I leave you with this advice: enjoy being young, take advantage of your opportunities and yes, continue to make us older dudes very jealous.