Oh, look, I’m wearing Uggs in June. Must be Dartmouth graduation!
We trekked up to New Hampshire on Saturday for a weekend celebrating my youngest brother, Benjamin, he who has a very high GPA and is pursuing a discipline that can’t really be described in English.
Also, he who enjoys rock-climbing and puppies and makes waffles for his friends every Wednesday morning, it should be noted.
After all, there’s a boy behind the 150-page honors thesis and PhD program acceptances, a boy who likes doing normal-person things, or so we’ve been told.
Although really, who cares? Graduations are not about waffles. Graduations are about awards and impressing your parents’ friends. And Benjamin does both things quite well.
The awards were kind of a new thing for me and Jake to witness (Summa Cum what?), but my family’s no stranger to this whole Dartmouth graduation weekend thing in general.
Ah, yes, we already endured such a trial in honor of Jacob in 2009. Here’s some candid photographic evidence of that ordeal (my face honestly just sets itself into that position, almost as soon as we enter New Hampshire.)
2011 stayed shockingly close to script: freezing cold (check), pouring rain (check), little sprinkles of family drama for good measure (check, check.)
Admittedly, things were looking a little sketch on Saturday afternoon. Picture it: my parents are limiting our menu choices to a dessert item or something called the “express lunch”; Benjamin is refusing to attend his own Phi Beta Kappa ceremony; Jacob is offering to take one for the team, don the sports coat, and sub in; and Dave and I are cheering on the madness from the sidelines. And that was just lunch, my friends. I’m legally barred from telling you what happened at dinner, and brunch the next day was so bad I think I’ve willed myself to forget the details.
But still, despite all the obstacles, we made it safely to Sunday’s commencement and lived to tell the tale.
First, there was the presenting of the graduate degrees, where I caught a glimpse of a long-lost friend, and then a slew of honorary degrees, including one bestowed on everyone’s favorite former leader of the free world, George H. W. Bush.
There were some protesters, whose presence I honestly welcomed, just because I’m in favor of democracy and college kids being college kids and all that. But when it came time for the presentation of Mr. President’s actual honor, I found myself giving the guy a standing ovation. I don’t agree with his politics at all, but the guy is just so old and so in a wheelchair and, while at first glance he appeared to look pretty good for 87, further camera footage indicated he seemed to have no idea where the F he was. To cap off the pity party, a quick Wikipedia search by Dave revealed it was the dude’s birthday. His actual birthday. Additionally, my butt was kind of starting to fall asleep. So on to my feet I went!
Then for the main event: graduation speaker Conan O’Brien. An event I had been counting down until since watching this video:
And man, it did not disappoint.
It was funny, yes, the kind of funny where you can’t catch your breath for 24 straight minutes and you just want the jokes to go on forever. So you should watch it if you’re a fan of comedy, or really if you have any sort of sense of humor at all.
You should also watch it if you can stand to see your Ivy League alma mater made fun of (for the record, yes, I can, though begrudgingly) or if you appreciate some jabs at Dartmouth’s average June temperature and middle-of-nowhere-ness.
But most of all, you should watch it, if, like me, you’ve been feeling a little lost lately, if you’re stuck with that nagging sensation that you’re not stacking up, if you’re convinced that there’s something, just out of your reach, that would somehow validate everything and allow you to slap that “success!” label on your back and call it a day.
Maybe you’re lucky enough not to feel like that (I hope you are.) But even so, you should still watch this. Because, if there’s one thing that the cable news personality who beat out a war hero to give a commencement address taught me yesterday, it’s that, no matter how famous or funny or rich or wonderful you are, one day, you’ll probably feel that sting of disappointment, probably have a moment where things do not go the way you planned, even (especially?) if you plan meticulously and fervently for the better part of your life. And, when that happens, I hope that you, like me, are lucky enough to pull this little speech up online and watch it from the comfort of your couch, just like we did last night, even though Hanover was 3.5 hours and 212 miles in the rearview mirror.