McMullen: Pomp and surrealism
Another group of kids has finally conquered the Sedalia school system and I have one thing to say: Attending the first graduation ceremony where I wasn’t actually graduating was pretty surreal.
You might wonder why I would even bother to go to the 2009 Smith-Cotton High School graduation ceremony. Much to the dismay of many upperclassmen, it is pretty much impossible to go through high school without having people from other grades in your classes. Because of this simple fact I did get to know a few of the people who weren’t in my graduating class. Besides, there’s a real world and one occasionally associates with people from lower grades. I was there to support a small few graduating and there to support a couple playing in the band.
I arrived about 30 minutes before the event actually started and was distressed to find that a lot of seats had already been taken. We ended up sitting behind the stage and that was fine by me since I didn’t have a brother or a son or anything like that walking across the stage.
I watched the class of 2009 stroll into the middle of the Mathewson Exhibition Center and it just felt so strange. Just a year ago I was down there, sweating like a freezer that had been left open and silently cursing the people who claimed that this silly flat hat I was wearing was one size fits all. It made me wonder how many of them were legitimately excited and how many of them couldn’t wait to get this thing over with. (I honestly don’t know how that hat stayed on my head for the entire walk across the stage.)
It made me sit and consider where I was one year after getting that magic diploma. I’ve got a year’s worth of classes at State Fair Community College and I’ve got a highly visible position right here at The Sedalia Democrat but it just feels like I haven’t done enough. Surely these young adults will have accomplished more in a matter of months than I have in a year.
Throughout the night I saw various graduates passing balloons through the air that were barely inflated. The class of 2008 got at least two fully inflated beach balls into the air during the ceremony and these people couldn’t even toss their sad inflatables around for a respectable amount of time.
Near the end, there was someone in the audience inflating beach balls and chucking them into the arena in an attempt to do something about this sad showing, but this person’s range wasn’t quite good enough for this situation — the balls barely made it past the arena wall and were quickly restrained by various authority figures.
Perhaps I’m too cynical but I have yet to hear a good graduation speech in the two years that I have been attending the graduation ceremonies in one capacity or another. All of the speeches have been a combination of ham-fisted attempts at comedy and baseless ego stroking. “Not only are we the final class graduating the true Smith-Cotton High School, we are also the best and most successful class,” said Bryce Johnson when he addressed the graduating class.
I was a bit miffed by this conclusion at the time, but in retrospect I suppose every graduating class thinks that it is the best and we’re all equally wrong. I think it will be a few years before we can fully grasp which graduating class was the “most successful”, and it would be a subjective nightmare to determine what it means to be “the best,”
There sure was a lot of strutting and posturing across the stage this year. I can’t help but conclude that the strut that yours truly did across the stage last year became some kind of trend that fed into this year and will continue growing until a strut is the default thing to do and the cool kids start walking.
I couldn’t help but laugh occasionally when they were receiving their diploma books because I knew what many people watching the ceremony didn’t know — those books were empty. The school does this wacky thing where they hand you an empty book when you walk across the stage so you won’t act up during the ceremony. At some point after that you have to go to the school and pick up the actual diploma. I doubt they would actually follow through with denying anyone their diploma unless they stood up and flashed the entire audience or killed someone but it is a threat they like to make.
I want to extend congratulations to all the people in the class of 2009 whom I know and all the people I don’t know. I hope you accomplish something with your life.
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