Commencement. This is the time we lose our childhood and step into the adult world. I am talking about graduation from high school for those who don’t go on to ‘higher education’, since they will have to get a job and start being responsible. For those who go on to college, commencement doesn’t really start until after that graduation, since despite the harder work at learning, those people are effectively continuing their childhood. And fear of going into the cold hard adult world is often the excuse for going on to graduate school.
After commencement, we can no longer cling to our teddy bears when going to sleep. Play converts from games of tag to gin rummy. Even our sense of humor adjusts and we might develop a taste for jokes based on the news. Our taste in music often gets arrested at this point, however, and golden oldies become a staple in our listening pleasure. Clothing changes from muscle shirts and short-shorts to suits and dresses. With no more school dances or proms, we often stop dancing completely.
There used to be a collection of great books called the Syntopicon. They ran an ad in the New York Times Sunday magazine showing a headstone. The title said (I’m paraphrasing here) “Here lies John Doe. He is still alive but his brain died at the age of 30.”
How often this is true. Without formalized education, we feel as if we have reached our goals and settle in to living the age of thirty, marrying, and having children. We no longer learn in any fashion. We give up dreams of fame and fortune. We develop a tunnel vision encompassing The Job and the family. Men stop playing sports and start watching them. Hairstyles and the way we dress seem to be etched in stone, worn past retirement age.
How sad. Parts of childhood should keep going – the curiosity, the play, the nerve to try something new. We should commence a new life, not mourn the loss of childhood then settle into a limbo of life. This would probably take a concerted effort, due to the time demands of a spouse, children and a career. But the rewards would be great, and instead of just losing life we would be simply transitioning to a new one with its own pleasures and discoveries. We have to keep dancing.