By Shelley Murphy
“It’s a weird week,” said my youngest son’s friend. “I graduated from college, my friend got engaged, and I’m going to Europe. It’s weird being an adult.”
I couldn’t have said it better. His statement sums up the milestone events of a memorable spring break.
This month marks the last spring break for my youngest son and his group of friends.
Many of my son’s friends spent their spring breaks unlike any before. Instead of bellying up to the bar ordering tequila shots, they were lining up at job fairs, requesting interviews.
The collegiate collective on the cusp of graduating from college find themselves contemplating and questioning a variety of futures. They are pondering possible next steps, including continuing educations, launching careers, proposing marriage and outlying travel.
A couple of weeks ago, my soon-to-be college grad spent his spring break traveling through Europe with his profound pal.
Before my son embarked on his overseas adventure, one of the guys in their friend group popped the question to his longtime love. Family and friends convened to witness the proposal from hidden viewpoints along Calafia’s coastline.
It’s surreal; the same group of guys, just a few years ago, gathered to help each other carry out elaborate high school “prom-posals.”
As college seniors, my son and his friends face the proverbial fork in the road once summer’s celebrations conclude.
After my son graduates next month, he’ll prepare to start law school in August. He has numerous decisions yet to make before the fall semester begins, but he’s eager to explore his new world.
Planning for post-college life, some of his friends have concrete career plans and others have vague vocation ideas. Unlike the board game, The Game of Life, after college graduates get a shiny new degree, they don’t spin a colorful wheel to determine their fate.
It’s not unusual to find grads struggling to answer the same candid question they’ve been asked by well-meaning adults for most their lives: What do you want to be when you grow up?
It’s fun to query kindergarteners who delight in declaring careers such as unicorn doctor or mermaid teacher. But asking an almost-alumnus that question frustrates an already confused student and turns a time of festivity into a moment of melancholy.
I commiserate with today’s bewildered college seniors and count myself among the many who didn’t find their grown-up career until years after parading through a stadium to the thunder of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
For some seniors, the pressure of leaving their dream school to find a dream job is daunting. Overnight, graduates trade their spirit wear for business attire, university homework for an alumni network and a campus academic planner for the worldwide Gregorian calendar.
While my son is among those who look forward to graduating, he doesn’t want to participate in the commencement ceremony. He argued his plea in front of a very prejudiced jury, and the future litigator lost his case; he’ll be donning his college’s robe, sash and mortarboard next month.
Fortunately, my son thinks he knows what life holds for him after graduation.
Unfortunately, so do I.
Once my son shakes hands, accepts his diploma and crosses the stage, the familiarity and predictability of the past four years vanishes.
Sitting in my seat at commencement, I’ll shed a tear (or two) and say goodbye to the reliable vacation schedule ensuring my son spends summers in San Clemente and the rigid winter recess sending him home for the holidays.
After my son’s name is called and he moves his tassel to the left, he’ll follow the recessional out of the arena and into the uncertainty of the real world.
I’ve looked forward to celebrating my son’s college graduation for years, but, at the same time, I yearn to turn back the hands of time to his first days in a preschool classroom.
I agree. It’s weird being an adult.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.