Monday, May 20, 2019

Graduation Day 1990 (Here Comes The Sun)

It was 29 years ago today that I “woke up” (not that I’d slept much at all) around 5 am after what would be my last college all-nighter. It was a pretty wild party held in my soon-to-be ex-college apartment, and the reason for it was fairly obvious—today (Sunday, May 20, 1990) was Graduation Day at the University of Connecticut.

Sleep just wasn’t happening for me; for the dozen or so bodies strewn around the apartment it seemed to come fine and easy, but my body wasn’t having any of it. So fully dressed, I grabbed my car keys and quietly headed out.

It was such a surreal feeling to wander outside into the light morning rain, unsure of where to go for the next few hours, knowing that so much of my life had led to this day and this brand new chapter was about to commence.

So I hopped into my ’79 Oldsmobile and just drove, out through those small, bucolic rural towns that dot eastern Connecticut, hoping to maybe outrun the rain and find a sunrise on this last day of my college life. I eventually drove to the top of a hill on an empty road in one of those little towns and, after driving for a half-hour or so, pulled over and got out of my car. I was heading east and I looked out and there it was—just a faint hint of the sun coming up.

I sat on the hood of my car and watched the faint pink and orange sky, thinking about what came next and admitting to myself I didn’t have a damn clue. I sat there for 10-15 minutes, lost in the stillness of it all, alone and feeling so very far away not only from home, but from everything and everyone I knew.

I thought about what came next, both literally and figuratively. I had a cap and gown to iron, I had friends to meet for breakfast one last time, I had parents to meet and other friends to gather with as we made our way to venerable old Memorial Stadium for the ceremony. I had hours ahead of me waiting for my name to be called with thousands of other graduates. I had lunch with the family and then the slog of moving out of my apartment over the next day or two and heading back home to live, at least for a little while.

And beyond that, I had a career to think about. I had an interview at a newspaper for a free-lance reporting position two days later, and thus would begin what I hoped would be a successful career in journalism. It was all in front of me, just as that tiny glint of sunrise was.

The sheer silence of that moment ended abruptly when a raindrop hit the hood of my car, then another and then within seconds a steady rain was falling and the sunrise up ahead was fading. It was time to go. I hopped back in the driver’s seat, turned around and drove off.

Soon I would be surrounded by people I loved and whose company I enjoyed, so this alone time was welcome. Still, I’d had enough of the quiet and had such little sleep I needed something to keep my brain occupied and my eyes open, so I turned on the car stereo to the rock-n-roll station it was already tuned to.

Amazingly, this song came on. One of my favorite songs delivered by perhaps my all-time favorite band. I nodded along to the music and I headed back, back through that long, grey rain, back to campus, back to reality, away from the sunrise and straight into what—beyond this long-awaited day—would be a great unknown of a future.