Twenty years ago, I sat in gown and silly hat (they were Mickey Mouse Ears with a tassel) and listened to The Fonz himself, Henry Wrinkler talk to my graduating class about how he worked through severe dyslexia to get through college, and then later on into Yale Drama school. He spoke of how he got past being an “artist” to be a “working artist” taking roles on TV shows and commercials and not “legitimate roles in The Theatre.” He spoke on how luck, as much as eagerness and hard work played into his success.
Twenty years ago, I would, the next day, stagger through our actual graduation ceremony–a ceremony which very much was filled with all the pomp and circumstance that you can believe an Ivy League school can muster. I was hung over, and sleep deprived, and recovering from my last hook up of my college career –a hook up that literally was four years in the making, and didn’t actually come to fruition until our last night as college undergrads.
Twenty years ago, I sat in my residential college courtyard (a throwback to Cambridge and Oxford) with the other 100 or so kids in my graduating class that had lived in the same set of dorms for four years and waited for our names to be called.
Twenty years ago, my name was called and the world went silent as in a dream, and I walked up the flagstone path, shook the hand of our dean, the hand of our college master and was handed a little roll of paper with my name of it; and while it would be another year before I would get the BIG paper with my name on it (stupid 2 classes to make up), I would get to walk with, and forever be associated with, my class.
Twenty years ago, I gathered down in the courtyard with a couple of friends, stuffed my clay pipe with a handful of tobacco, lit the bowl and smoked it. Upon finishing it, my friends and I participated in a tradition that goes back to the 1860s and smashed the pipes on the stones of our college: a semi-sacrament representing the end of our Bright College Years.
Twenty years ago, I turned to my mom, cried hot tears in the realization that the world had ended; that the world was new; that I had accomplished something huge; that I had taken the steps to something even bigger, something that would end with the waxing of my own light–that I was a baby starting life.
Twenty years ago, I graduated from college.
A world of things have happened in the intervening years. A lifetime has passed. No time has passed. It was a life a way. It was just yesterday.
I’ve had seven very different careers. I’ve had fifteen minutes of fame with millions of people seeing me on a SuperBowl commercial and then on a huge reality show. I was saved from a horrible accident by the grace of God and really amazing automotive engineering. I’ve danced, and drank and screwed, and laughed and loved, and cried, and hated and forgave; I’ve fallen in love. I’ve married a wonderful and sometimes frustrating woman. I’ve had children, beautiful children, who both amaze and infuriate me. All love. All love. Movies and books, and music and writing, and games and smarts and stupidity–and LOVE all the bloody and wonderful and horrible and perfect and confused love.
I’m missing my Twenty Year College reunion as I type this. Twenty years of living, and life makes it really crazy to attend things, sometimes. Big things.
I’m missing my classmates, roomates, and beer, and pizza and families and stories and catching up and love…but I’m not missing the love, not really.
The love never left me. It’s here with me. It’s in the friendships that I’ve carried with me, the insatiable love of learning that I still carry in my brain. It’s in the conversations that I have, the things I try and instill in my kids, and the mind blowingly elegant and intelligent conversations that I have with my wife.
Twenty Years, and my college years still gleam bright for me.
Bright College years, with pleasure rife,
The shortest, gladdest years of life;
How swiftly are ye gliding by!
Oh, why doth time so quickly fly?
The seasons come, the seasons go,
The earth is green or white with snow,
But time and change shall naught avail
To break the friendships formed at Yale.
In after years, should troubles rise
To cloud the blue of sunny skies,
How bright will seem, through mem’ry’s haze
Those happy, golden, bygone days!
Oh, let us strive that ever we
May let these words our watch-cry be,
Where’er upon life’s sea we sail:
“For God, for Country and for Yale!
My name is Anthony Robinson, Calhoun College, Yale University, Class of 1996