As I spent the past couple days looking over my past columns, I was surprised to see how much time I have spent looking at the past. Lamenting the passage of time, and wondering where the joys of childhood and innocence have gone.
Perhaps I'm the only person who reads this deeply into my writing, and maybe I have just been in a reflective mood lately. Either way, getting older and watching life change can be a real trip.
Last weekend I sat in the stands of my old high school (a place I barely recognize) watching my younger brother graduate. He is the last of the three Flesher boys to graduate from Avon Lake High School, at least until the grandkids get there.
I sat in the same stands of the basketball gym, the same stands I used to sit with friends and watch our basketball team dressed in any assortment of odd costumes. (I once went in swim gear wearing flippers, and I can truly say I have no idea why.)
It seems like it was just a few years ago that I walked down to accept my diploma, wide eyed and excited for the uncertain future that lay before me. I was going into college, and I knew everything I needed to know, and there was nothing that would get in my way to being a millionaire by the age of 25. Well, there I sat, holding my son, only a million dollars short of my million dollar goal.
I remember when I sat where my brother was sitting, and thinking about how much life was about to change and how much I didn't want that. I had a house that I didn't have to pay for with all the food I ever needed, a bunch of friends that I was incredibly close to, and an environment that was all I knew.
I held on too tight at times, losing a friend or two along the way, not to mention the girlfriend of my high school days, but I have gained so much since then. And I am nowhere close to the person I thought I would become, but instead I've become a man that I never thought I could be.
Life is marked with landmark moments, and graduation happens to be the first, but no where near the last.
Sitting in those stands, I watched the young class of 2009 take their last steps as young high schoolers and their first awkward steps into freedom and adulthood. Soon this class of young people will be unleashed on the world like locusts, many heading to college, some to work, and others still to the military. And of the 300-plus young people at ALHS and the thousands more across the Valley, there is no telling what they are going to do. Maybe one will find the cure for cancer, another may finally deliver a championship to the city of Cleveland, and who knows, maybe my brother will become a great litigater or politician. And that's the point - no one knows.
I had no idea that I would be sitting in those stands, next to my wife who I had no idea existed nine years ago, and holding my son (also someone I had no idea of nine years ago). I feel at times like I am still an 18-year-old kid, but then as I reflect on life, I realize how much happens in such a short period of time. I never wanted to grow up, but unlike Peter Pan, I had to. Because of that, I have a life that I am so happy to have. As boring and as adult as it is.
My brother's name is Patrick, and he is one of thousands upon thousands of other graduates throughout Ohio and the Mahoning Valley over the next few weeks. And for Patrick and the rest of them, there is nothing in front of them now but the rest of their lives. It's an incredible time of their lives and now is the time they start shaping into the people they will become.
If I have any advice to my little brother - who is bigger than me - and the rest of the class of 2009, it's to go ahead with an open mind. Allow yourselves to grow and learn as much as possible, and listen to those you agree with and especially those you don't. Enjoy meeting new people and learn from them as they will from you, because you will be among individuals who are different than anything you have ever known. Embrace the change. And most important, work as hard as you can. College may seem like a long time at first, but it goes quick, and when it's all over you want to be able to say "I did my best" and mean it.