A Brief Commentary on Why Today is Not Important, Even Though Everyone Keeps Telling Me It Is.


Two things — important things — are happening to me today. I am a very passive observer in both events.

1. I turn 22 years old.

2. I graduate from college.

I know that May 16, 2009, is supposed to be a monumentally important day in the life of Dan Oshinsky. A half dozen of my relatives are here to pinch my cheeks and remind me of how they knew me when I was twenty minutes old. My mother has brought along framed photos of me in rare childhood moments in which I was not napping or eating. My father has been basically beating me over the head with regular, all-caps emails that read “YOU’RE OLD” and “MOVES FAST, DOESN’T IT?”

Look, I get it. I’m a year older than 21. I’m graduating from college. These are big moments. And if I was a generation older, I’d probably be writing this in a diary, or maybe on a CompuServ message board. But I don’t have a diary; I just have a blog.

And moreover, I have no reason to believe that this day is important.

In terms of life’s little narrative arcs, I suppose my family has a point. But it really only means something to someone who’s seen the entire arc. Context is everything.

A birthday hasn’t felt significant to me since I was nine years old, when I realized that I was soon moving out of single digits. It felt significant then; it still does today. I liked the fourth grade; I miss kickball.

And a graduation hasn’t felt important since I was 11. The Wood Acres Elementary School graduation ceremony was a big deal. As kindergartners, we’d filed into the gymnasium for something called “The Clap Out.” All of the other classes from all of the other grades were packed into the gym, too. Someone had created an aisle through the middle of the gym, tiny orange traffic cones marking the path of least resistance, and we pressed up against those cones, looking like mini-Moonlight Grahams, wondering if we dared cross the demarcation line. We watched as Ms. Hall — the Principal — called out the name of each fifth grader, and we reached out our hands into the aisle as each fifth grader ran through it and high-fived everyone within wingspan. And we vowed that when fifth grade came around, we’d do something infinitely more cool than just running down the aisle and high-fiving the rest of the school.

So for six years, we thought about incredible feats that could be achieving while running through a gymnasium at top speed. We planned. We plotted. We schemed.

Then fifth grade came around, and Ms. Hall called my name, and I burst out of the hallway and down the aisle, doing the only thing you can do while sprinting through a crowd of 500 people: high-fiving everyone in sight. Then I went into the aisle and high-fived all of my friends. It took a week for the swelling in my right hand to go down.

That felt like a big deal then. But this? The Dan Oshinsky Story — a heartwarming tale of a suburban-bred kid who graduated thanks to some very favorable odds — isn’t coming to a theater near you.

So today is one of those days that really only means something if you’re looking at the big narrative arcs. That’s why my mother will be crying today, though, to be fair, my mother would probably cry if I told her that I had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon at Waffle House.

And here’s the thing about narrative arcs: sometimes you’re not sure where they’re leading. Sometimes, you’re not even sure where they’re starting.

Sometimes, you just don’t know that much at all.

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H/T to Carbon NYC for the photo at top.