It’s easy for graduation season to conjure up memories of your own walk across the stage to receive your diploma, be it high school or college.
June marks 40 years since I graduated from Clayton Valley High School and May was 35 years since getting my degrees from San Francisco State University.
I wonder about graduates today who didn’t get to enjoy all of the rituals of high school or antics in college because of the pandemic. Or maybe they are stronger for having gone through such uncertainty at an early age.
Graduations are such a celebratory event—as they should be. But you couldn’t pay me to go back to high school or college.
While adulting comes with a slew of obstacles no one tells you about (which is probably a good thing), I will take this phase of life over my teen years. It’s not that high school or college were bad years; I just don’t want to repeat them.
Still, it was fun to discover some photos from way back when. To remember friends, to see what I looked liked, to be reminded of fun times.
I’m one of those rare people (or so it seems) who knew the career they wanted from an early age, pursued it, stuck with it, and am still a writer to this day. I have fond memories of working on the paper in high school, less so about the paper in college.
Still, college afforded me the opportunity to be president of our chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which allowed me to go to the national convention that was mostly comprised of working journalists, not students. I was also president of a political science group that took an annual trip to Sacramento to meet with legislators. We hosted an event where then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown was the guest of honor. That was a big deal.
What I remember about the actual graduations is the high school event was at the Concord Pavilion—so much nicer than a football field. The principal, Chuck Jordan, gave me a hug—one of only a few he handed out. That probably wouldn’t be allowed today because of the many (mostly men) who don’t understand unwanted touch.
Anyway, Principal/Mr. Jordan, was a tennis player. That’s how we got to know each other. His wife, Lee, coached tennis at one of the other area high schools. He and I kept in touch after graduation until he died in 2008.
At SFSU, graduation was on the field. I would say football field, but they didn’t have a team while I was there. It was one of those typically gray, foggy San Francisco days where you should have an umbrella to stay dry, but it’s not raining so you don’t have it. Graduates and attendees were soggy by the time it was over.
I had become so frustrated with the journalism department that I walked with the political science group. (I majored in both.) I received a great education, but there were instances that rattled me—like one instructor (who just died this spring) who was so strung out on coke that he often skipped class or barely functioned if he showed up. Our complaints to the administration went nowhere. Oddly, we became colleagues at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle.
While working on the college paper I told the advisor, a different guy, I was going to be gone a week and asked to turn in assignments ahead of time or more afterward. He said fine. I got back and he had no recollection of this conversation. My memory is I got a D that semester on the paper. Thank goodness no future employers asked to see my transcripts.
Like most phases of life there are good and bad memories. Fingers crossed life continues to bring mostly positive experiences that turn into wonderful memories.