Friday, April 29, 2016

Lessons Learned From A Three-Minute Record

The current CU-Boulder Alumni Association Calendar adorns a portion of one of the walls of my office.  It occupies sacred ground initially staked out by its ancestor when the Firm first moved to its present location in early August, 1999.  But for a brief four-month stint seven-plus years ago, the current inhabitant is stationed where its predecessors have been stationed in the almost-seventeen years since and where its descendants shall be stationed for the foreseeable future - or until the Missus and I make Lake Como our permanent, full-time home.  Once that happens, I foresee it occupying space on a wall in an office from which I can smell the ocean.  

I know from glancing at today's date on the calendar that this day is the final day of classes at CU-Boulder for Spring 2016 semester.  For the students who shall graduate early next month, if they do in fact have a class today - and if you are a second-semester college senior who scheduled a Friday class I know not whether to commend you or to condemn you - today marks the end of an era. Moreover, for any graduating senior who is not going to attend graduate school, including medical school or law school, today truly marks their final day of classes.  Forever.  And as an exquisitely-talented, diminutive Minnesotan educated all of us, forever is indeed a mighty long time.  

Too many years have passed for me to remember precisely what I was thinking and what I was feeling when I walked out of my final class at the University of Colorado in late April, 1989.  I know not whether that milestone struck me as carrying the same amount of weight as the completion of my last final exam did.  In 1989, graduation day was May 12.  My last final exam, which was in Professor Mapel's History of Political Philosophy (Poli Sci 439), was one week earlier - on the evening of May 5.   I absolutely crushed his final exam.  I had never been more prepared for an exam in my life.  I was the first person in our class to complete the test and when I handed my exam booklet/materials into him, I can still hear him asking me how I thought I did and me replying by telling him that I did not think I had answered more than one question incorrectly.  He smiled.  I told him that my college career was now over, I thanked him for being such an excellent professor (which he was), shook his hand, and headed out into a beautiful Boulder evening.  I was right, by the way, in terms of my self-assessment of my performance.  I got an "A+".  

My senior year at CU, we (Jay, John, Alex - and for one semester Alex's friend John Bradley - and me) lived in a shitty apartment building on Canyon Boulevard, which was north of campus.  I do not have any recollection what - if anything - any of my roommates had on his schedule that evening.  I remember simply that I was not in any particular hurry to get home.  It was almost as if from the time I walked out of the building where Professor Mapel's class met (it was either Hellems or Ketchum but I cannot recall which) and onto campus, my mind knew that I no longer really belonged there.  I was half an interloper.  There were no more classes to attend.  There were no more exams for which to study.  There were no more exams to take.  In a moment, everything had changed.  I had orphaned myself. 

Almost thirty years further on up the road, I marvel at the life that I have made for myself.  I do so, in no small part, because I am no less of a self-absorbed asshole at forty-nine than I was at twenty-two. To the extent that I have matured and not simply just aged in the not-quite three decades between then and now, credit for that metamorphosis belongs to my wife.  I have significant doubts whether - had I not met and fallen in love with Margaret when I was in my mid-twenties - I would have lived to see my late forties.  I am happy that I have done so.  

I assure you that you do not owe me an apology should you possess a different opinion.  

...and hear your sister's voice calling us home across the open yards.


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