I’m finally at graduation. It’s an odd place. Lest you think I’m kidding, I’m typing this as I listen to the valedictorian speak. He’s doing a nice job, quoting Theodore Roosevelt about who matters- the man in the arena and not the critic.
Being the man in the arena is not unusual for me. I wrestled (and lettered) all 4 years of high school, I earned my living and my pay as a cannon cocker on a gun line. In these I am totally used to being the man in the arena. Such ventures prepared me for tackling a new arena- academics.
I was not a scholar in high school. Bad grades? Son, I barely kept myself legal to wrestle. Until my senior year, I never broke above 2.5. Now I’m supposed to take on the joys of college? Oh boy!
I’ve sat through hours of classes, up in the morning before sunrise, home well after dark, and sacrificed a lot of time with my wife and children, all in pursuit of a degree. It still doesn’t feel any different. I damn sure don’t feel smarter. But I’m graduating all the same, first man in my father’s family to ever make it this far in school.
What I have now is the opportunity to go out and prove I’ve gained something from all the hours used and all the time sacrificed. In this case it’ll be trying to write a novel in one summer and take it to market. Not just because I’m bored but because that’s what I’m doing for an internship this summer.
We talk about how wonderful this digital age is, but do we understand the full ramifications, the depths and heights to which we may now aspire? The more I’ve studied it this last semester, the more incredulous I find myself.
What I am typing on a handheld device, and publishing in the space of a few minutes will reach the ends of the earth as fast as the data can move. What was once a broadsheet printed on a wood and metal frame, dependent on sailing ships and convoys of overland merchant men now moves at a speed limited only by the physics of light and electronic information.
Less than 300 years ago, my paternal ancestors relied on pounding out tapa and didn’t have much in the way of a written language. Which was really no different than how their forefathers had done things for the thousand years prior. I have the opportunity to accomplish so much more and even if I don’t become an overnight success like Clancy or Rowling I can live with myself knowing I gave it everything I had.
Don’t get me wrong- I’d love enough money to buy a ranch in Texas, a mansion in Hawaii, with the ability to fly between those two locations whenever I wish, plus a gorgeous red car decorated with a rearing black horse. But experience (and great Sergeants) have tempered my expectations for myself. As the Kipling declared “if you can meet success and disaster. And treat those two imposters just the same… yours is the world my son, and what’s more you’ll be a man!”
Truly, we live in an incredible age. Let us make the most of what we have been afforded.