This year, I was honored with an invitation to attend Carlsbad High School’s Business Professionals of America (BPA) banquet. (BPA is, incidentally, a great program). It was a two-hour affair, featuring three (3!) separate inspirational PowerPoint presentations, a touching candlelight ceremony and a highly-detailed, emotional recounting of every single shared memory that took place over the past 18 months or so.
Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” blasted as our upcoming generation of business professionals shared their hopes, dreams and memories.
Emotions ran high. There was pageantry galore, and keep in mind that this particular event was just two days after the prom, two weeks before graduation, and smack in the middle of a dozen or so other end-of-year galas and banquets.
On the flip side, I’ve also recently attended a few goodbye parties for folks who are retiring after putting in 20 or 30 years of service. Such affairs have typically been on the opposite end of the pageantry spectrum. The traditional workplace event involves standing awkwardly around a cake in the breakroom for 15 minutes or so, and then one manager stammers out a few lines thanking the employee for their multiple decades of service and thousands of hours of work. The party is held at the same time as the monthly safety meeting, because we might as well get that done, too. So, there are five minutes of discussion of eyeglass safety and then that’s a wrap. No candles. No PowerPoints. Not even that much nostalgia.
It would be easy to make fun of teenage proclivity toward emotional extravagance (we will now recount our favorite moments of the first half of this banquet!), but I’m presently inclined to take the opposite view. Somewhere between senior year’s month-long festival and a greatly subdued 30-year retirement, I respectfully submit that we ignored Lee Ann Womack’s advice. I think lost our sense of wonder. Adults are boring.
Only that’s not totally fair. The same stoic, retiring employee is likely busy thinking about her grandkid’s upcoming baseball tournament or his daughter’s dance recital or a graduating senior’s BPA banquet. One of the reasons we put up with spilled juice, abandoned chicken strips and eyerolls is that our young people (by which I mean both teenagers and children) bring a sense of wonder to the equation. They have energy and dreams that we, the tired adults of the world, sort of plug into.
But is it totally healthy to rely exclusively upon our children to act as our surrogates for any sense of wonder and enthusiasm? Or should we strive just a little bit to bring a bit more pageantry and emotion into our own affairs?
I mean, some measure of reservation is age appropriate. Nobody wants to see a bunch of 50- and 60-year-olds in an office breakroom holding candles up into the air and issuing bold proclamations about the light of the future. On the other hand, maybe we can liven it up just a bit. I can’t help but think of my teacher friend Karen Orgain, who celebrated her retirement by dancing the night away in sparkling four-inch heels. Let’s all be a little more like Karen. Sooner or later, you will have another grown-up event that could either involve awkward standing around, or it could involve a little more pizzazz. And when you get that choice?
Well, I hope you dance.