You are going to hear (and choose to ignore) words of wisdom, advice and platitudes from dignitaries and relatives alike. They’ll all say the same thing anyway: live a life beyond your imagination, and take seriously the future you hold in your hands.
But listen to me. I know what your future holds. It is guaranteed to fill you with dread.
Everything you do in life will come under the microscope ten, twenty, thirty, forty, (and hopefully) fifty, sixty years from now in one single night in a dark hotel ballroom close to your old stomping grounds.
The first reunion draws the best crowd. The women will be shocked at how bald the men got. The men will be shocked at how fat the women got. Everyone will be trying to impress each other with their great careers, pretending to be higher up the corporate ladder than they really are. Diamond rings will be appraised and lots of baby pictures will be passed around to fake adoration.
At the twenty-year reunion, there is always a decent crowd of curiosity-seekers. There is the person who went straight into civil service who is now retired with a pension. He’ll be wearing the tuxedo t-shirt and be the most care-free person in the room. People will be bragging about their career changes or start-ups to cover the lay-offs and stalled careers. The focus is now on their genius or Olympic-ready children.
The thirty-year reunion is a combination of the years around each graduating class, since it is hard to get a quorum. This causes a lot of confusion because you aren’t sure you even knew the person at your table, and you both do a lot of pretending. Spouses don’t come, unless it is the trophy wife, and she has to come for obvious reasons. You have to fictionalize your genius offspring’s life, since sleeping-in on the bed in the basement is not a career. Half the women will stay away, since they don’t like the way they look. Declining the invitation will be the happiest moment of that year for them. Half the men will be there to see if they can get lucky like they did back in the good-old school days. At least, that’s how they remember it.
The forty-year reunion should be in the same hotel as a medical convention, since that is all you will talk about. My aches and pains that are worse than your aches and pains. My surgeries were more complicated than your surgery. And let’s take a moment to remember those who died, may they rest in peace. Who was he again? But did you hear so-and-so remarried. Isn’t that like breaking into jail?
The fifty-year reunion is golden, so everyone who hears about it and can make it will be there. You can risk sending a better version stand-in since no one is recognizable or remembers much anyway. The name tag print is too small to read, but those old grainy black and white photos are priceless. Now the grandchildren’s photos are being passed to fake adoration. True success will be measured by the number and location of retirement homes. Some of you will be living in your children’s basements under the guise of mother-daughter apartments.
The sixty-year reunion is worth attempting to travel to, since the local paper will do a human-interest story on the few remaining, mobile graduates. Now you can tell the whole world about your wonderful life, career, marriage and children. No one will verify it, nor argue with you.
So Graduate, at this important milestone remember this: you need to do your best in this life so every ten years in a hotel ballroom you can impress the person sitting on the chair next to you. Do well and prosper.
Or at least, come up with a good story.