Still learning, 45 years after graduation

Forty-five years ago this June I graduated from high school. I’ve been watching the news reports of graduations all over the country, with snippets of the speaker’s comments. I’ve been to three graduations; mine, my son’s and my daughter’s.

Do you know what I remember from each of those graduation speeches? Nothing. I couldn’t even tell you who the speakers were. Nobody famous of course famous people don’t speak at high school graduations; local celebrities perhaps, but who remembers?

What I do remember of my own graduation was the jam up outside the auditorium when it was over; the mothers and dads kissing or hugging their newly minted adults-in-the-making; and the tears of several of the girls, declaring their undying devotion to this friend or that, wailing that “we may never see each other again!” In a class of somewhere around 30 students, most of whom had been together since kindergarten, this was a frightening prospect, to not see the people you had been with almost every day for 13 years.

Some of us moved away; some stayed in the hometown; some ventured out and came back; some died. A few classmates have never come back for a reunion, but most of us have been at least once or twice.

Most of the women complain they’ve gotten heavier and don’t want anyone to see them, but we attend anyway. The men complain their hair is thinning or gone. But we really don’t care about that. We want to see what’s become of those starry-eyed, idealistic adolescents we once were.

Have we become successful, whatever that is? Have we traded in our youthful exuberance for cynical rationalization of the status quo? Did we make “a difference” like we dreamed we would?

With a few exceptions, most of us just lived our lives as best we could, got married, had children, joined the PTA, earned a living and are looking forward to our “golden years.” Yet, what we may not realize is that we HAVE made a difference, for good or bad.

We are part of the Baby Boomer Generation. Just our being has influenced the world from the moment of our births to our rapidly aging numbers.

Where once we were inundated with commercials on television for acne cream and contraceptives, now we are the focus of adult diapers and specialized vitamins to combat our failing memories. But more than that, we have influenced and shaped the next generation. Our children and grandchildren will have learned life lessons from us; hopefully valuable and positive lessons.

It’s not too late to remember where we started and where we’ve come. It’s not too late to make a positive difference for the good. It’s not too late to reconnect with our long lost classmates; the ones we’d never forget.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to