It's about life - not "lifestyle"
JUNE 14, 2002
Today was graduation day at the high school I went to, and about a million others scattered across North America. The photo above was taken out the window of my car when I was driving home, perhaps an hour after the ceremony. People were still milling around at the top of the stairs, and employees were breaking down the chairs and podium. Families were walking to their cars, parked all over the little malls across the street.

When I went to this high school, it was a couple of miles out of town. In the  decades (decades?) since then the rural agricultural valley it was set is has built up to the point that within the year 9th graders who live within the city as it stood when I was their age won't even be allowed to go to this school - they'll be bussed way out of town to the "arch-rival". Times change, and fast; don't let the "decades" comment fool you.

Once you graduate, or stop going, things have definitely changed. I felt it quite profoundly. Like many students, I couldn't wait to get out, and I was fortunate enough to get out after having gone half-day, half-year in my senior year. I made up one class in night school, but when I finished finals in early February I was done with what I saw as my incarceration.

February was a strange time to get out of school. That long ago the February beaches were deserted. I had a part time job, one college class, and one night school class. Mornings were free for surfing.

Nobody was one the beach. Nobody was anywhere. While it was nice, there was something of a feeling of freefall. There was still a war going on, which was one thing which hung over the landscape.

They call it formally "Commencement Day", and to be sure when something like this ends you do commence the next stage of your life. For some it will be college, with other (usually much more appreciated) commencement days. For others it will be work, maybe travel, maybe adventure. You never really know when you're the one in the spot. It's a great time, though. For those who graduate in the North American Summertime, it must seem like limitless promise.

To those of you embarking on this, I say enjoy yourselves this summer. Put some thought into your next steps, make some plans. Only about a dozen of you are going to be able to make a decent living, for a few years, as pro surfers, so keep your eyes open for ways to make a living and keep your ocean stoke going. Think a bit about the Long Haul. Talk to trusted older surfers, or even your parents. Most of them have been where you are now and would be eager to see you not make any mistakes they may have made, or would like to share things they've learned along the way.

Watching the emptying out of the high school I went to, hearing the excited yells of newly minted grads in cars blaring music, looking at two non-descript girls in a beater Toyota smiling ear-to-ear - knowing they are about 5 years away from blossoming out of the invisibility they probably endured for the last 4 years - I couldn't help but smile. I wouldn't want to go back to that period of my life, I guess. When I get that notion I like to mix a strong drink and put on Springsteen's "Thunder Road", one of the great rock and roll songs, at a volume sure to stun the goldfish. I do that right about dusk, and make sure to polish off the drink during the first playing of the song.I usually listen to it once or twice more. It puts me right back, but instead of feeling like I have to go hit the road looking for something, I get to wait until my wife comes home. The dog is estatic everyone is together. The sun will come up tomorrow, the surf will still be there. It feels good.
View From The Beach
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