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Timothy Myers: Manufactured and actual milestones

Posted: May 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

One thinks about milestones in life, but few can actually point to a day when their life really changed, for good or ill.

Joe Sanfelippo, who along with wife Erin own and operate the Star Dance Center in Newhall, related a cautionary tale.

A friend in college played baseball, and while he did not merit draft attention the Dodgers organization showed some interest and scheduled a morning meeting to discuss the possibility of a tryout and a minor league contract.

The friend, however, smoked a whole lot of marijuana in his everyday life, and found himself doing the same the night before the critical meeting.

One knows the outcome before even reading the next line: He slept through the meeting and the Dodgers organization never returned any of his later telephone calls. A true (and bad) milestone in his life!

May and June constitute graduation season in the United States, and the Myers Clan this year enjoyed (or endured?) the season on steroids, with both a college (California State University, Channel Islands) and high school (Valencia) ceremony.

We speak of graduations in the terms of milestones, but unlike the incident related above, they actually entail a "manufactured" milestone that we still hold dear for a variety of reasons.

One knows this because in our modern society, and really for decades, graduations do not reflect a clean turning point where things were different one day and completely changed the next. For the high school graduate most will still require family financial and emotional support when they make the transition into higher education, work, or the military.

Even graduation from college, especially in a bum economy, sees a slow transition to complete adulthood and independence with children still receiving the usage of hand-me-down cars and inclusion in the family mobile telephone plan until they can completely find their feet.

Why then do we manufacture these milestones and hold them so dear?

The answer seems obvious. Humans, other than those that suffer from some type of profound mental illness, require relationships with other humans, since they provide the joy (and frankly pain) of our lives. What better way to compress and remember this cumulative joy than creating an event that brings about this self-reflection?

And in the age of social media one can produce such reflection and broadcast it to the world. During the college graduation season new graduates on a weekly or even daily basis post "throwback" pictures which provide an historical record of their time in college, which in the great scheme of life constitutes a mere moment.

High school students light up Twitter with giant checkmarks upon the completion of classes, examinations and other tasks while winding their way to the graduation ceremony.

And for parents we get a chance to reflect on the accumulation of all those events. With respect to our son, now a strapping six-foot-three-inch tennis player, I remembered for the first time in a long time how he participated in dance until the age of 8, and in middle school participated in mini-kid productions of musicals, culminating in his portrayal of Corny Collins in a kid friendly version of Hairspray.

And for our daughter, I remembered for the first time in a long time how the newly minted college graduate would hold that now six-foot-three-inch young man and coo to him for hours a day during his first year of life, developing a close and loving relationship that will endure forever, and perhaps contributing more than anything to the sweetness and love that marks his personality as a young man.

On May 18 CSUCI graduated 1,450 students and on May 24 Valencia High graduated about 650 students, providing over 2,100 such cumulative stories and joy, setbacks, difficulties, and ultimate triumph.

Multiply that by the thousands of high schools and colleges across the country and one quickly tots up to millions of individual stories unique in their specifics but also common in their narrative.

But on the day after life will once again intervene. In our personal situation a daughter needs to be moved to Seattle to start graduate school and a son needs orientation and movement to college.

To add to the stress myself and my Nebraska bride need to perfect our move to Orange County to begin our next phase of empty nest life.

But we will always remember these graduations and the memories they summon, even as new milestones arrive.

Timothy Myers is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" publishes Saturdays in The Signal.

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