The silly graduation moment with a serious impact

I remember two things about my high school graduation ceremony, which is one more than I remember about my college graduation.

Our high school commencement speaker was a guy none of us knew, and to this day, I can’t remember his name. I don’t remember what he said, either, which was par for the course back then since he was old and out-of-touch, and I was young and wise.

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But I recall the guy’s high-pitched cackle, registered over the rigged-up sound system on the football field, when a group of fellow grads went through with our pre-planned “spontaneous” toss of mortarboards high into the air after the last of us crossed the stage.

The other thing I remember? My mortarboard, clutched in my hand the whole time, failing to join its compadres in the air.

I had been told of the celebration plan right before the ceremony, and I figured lots of classmates would participate. But I was concerned and spent too much time pondering the repercussions.

What if my mortarboard didn’t come straight down to me? What if a classmate trampled it in the inevitable scramble? What if I didn’t see that ultimate collectible again?

A decision of that magnitude just can’t be made on the spur of the moment, and something like a graduation mortarboard requires proper care.

So my mortarboard went from head to hand and back to head again, destined for what I assumed would someday be an honored place in my life and home.

I’m not sure why this relatively meaningless story came back to me this month, other than the story about high school grads overcoming difficult odds got me thinking (naturally) about myself.

These students were dealt a losing hand, but they haven’t let things such as AWOL parents, drug dependency or lack of money stop them from getting where they want to go.

There’s something to be said for figuring out what you want to do and then just doing it — no overthinking, no hand-wringing, no regrets.

That’s a two-part equation, though, with the first part difficult and the second part nearly impossible.

More than once, we’ve all been where these students stood, facing a crossroads and needing to make a decision about which leg of the multi-pronged road of life to take. And most often, most of us stick with the direction we’re already headed rather than taking the road seemingly less traveled, which often is the road we really want to take in the first place.

In fact, there have been precious few decisions I truly regret, while the decisions I regret most are the paths I didn’t take because I was afraid of taking a chance.

Luckily, there have been few of those, too, in large part thanks to the mortarboard incident. Immediately after the ceremony, I knew it would have been fun to take a chance, cut loose and do something with no real consequences.

But it was too late; I had missed the moment, and there was no do-over.

Graduation was the last time I saw that mortarboard. It’s probably in our house somewhere, but the cap itself means nothing to me now. What I could have done with it — what I should have done with it, though — that’s something to regret.