Upon graduation

I am not a gambler by nature, but I bet on 3-1 odds last night and lost.

I was supposed to spend today on the National Mall with 20,000 plus of my classmates, their families, teachers, administrators and other assorted chazerai of this reasonably venerable institution.

Instead, I read a weather report that said there was a 75% chance of rain this morning, and decided to skip it. I believe I punctuated my point at dinner last night with my family by stating that "no matter what shoes I wear tomorrow, they will be ruined." My family seemed to agree, and we collectively decided to bag it.

But the sun beams that blazed through my window this morning made me squint just a little harder than usual. I had been bested by a stupid Blackberry weather app and the collective willpower of a thousand other graduates who clearly wanted a once-in-a-lifetime moment more than I wanted to sleep late.

So in lieu of sitting on the hazy quagmire that must be the Mall, I spent my morning engaging in the most beneficial of college activities - Jeopardy.

Jeopardy is really the ultimate quiz show: the questions are rigorous, the competition fierce, and the element of luck is completely removed. This is not Deal or No Deal, or even Wheel of Fortune. There is nothing to spin, or randomly pick, or reveal - it is just pure, unadulterated trivia. For a person who is borderline-Rain Man when it comes to trivia, Jeopardy is tailor-made to the eclectic collection of names, dates, terms and koans that comprise my brain.

I have spent a great deal of my college experience killing time with episodes of Jeopardy and reruns of Cash Cab and thousands of Sporcle quizzes and half finished crossword puzzles because I absolutely love trivia. I love historical minutiae and three-letter words and especially sports trivia. I would venture that if I devoted even half of the time I spent with Jeopardy to studying, I would have been Cum Laude.

This is a roundabout way to say something about graduation. One of the answers on Jeopardy this week quoted Khalil Gibran: "The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind."

It is a beautiful image. For so long, I was engendered to fight teachers, to hate them, to struggle against them as they tried to pin me down and teach me. But professors in college are more interested in leading you towards knowledge at a slow trot, drawing you down a path and stimulating your interest in a subject until you abandon the trot in favor of a dead sprint. A good professor shares his or her wisdom while pushing you to the brink of your own wisdom. Of course, they can only lead you so far before graduation.

I tuned out so much of the alleged words of wisdom I heard this weekend from people behind podiums because I found them mostly empty. Instead, I crafted my own image. Bear with me while I demolish this simile.

I imagine my mind as a long, cylindric, malleable piece of metal. I am set in your ways, but still fundamentally alterable. I am a formidable weapon when swung, able to bludgeon any subject that I bring myself down upon, but I needed a sharpened point. My parents held me against the whetstone, and sparks flew, and I resisted, and they spun me round and round until I finally relented. Once I found the right sharpening tool, my point became angled, and then sharp, and now deadly.

Simply because the whetstone has stopped spinning does not mean that I am done sharpening. Instead, the next step falls to me. My mind is a spear lying stationary on the blacksmith's floor, and I must pick it up myself and thrust it into the world.

Well, that got a little out of hand.

Khalil Gibran said it better and more succinctly, but that is because he was a wordsmith like very few others. My writing is a work in progress, but at least I know I have the raw ability within my mind. Joe Posnanski wrote a typically beautiful piece this week about being a young writer and how Bob Costas was able to inspire him by basically breaking him down. I have spent the last year in particular having my writing broken down and built up again by a very special professor, one who truly believes in my ability and still pushes me to do better. He criticizes me when I am lazy, he lauds me when I produce good work, and in the course of praising me in front of my classmates makes sure to remind me that I am not perfect. Everything I do can be better.

I am excited to find an outlet for my writing, one with an audience and a paycheck and critics and (hopefully) fans. My father likes to tell me that my writing is only limited by my experiences, and I hope that applies to all writers in general. The hard part is collecting those experiences - living life. The even harder part is finding an audience who will read those experiences. The easy part is writing.

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