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Love NOLA: Reflections of a 25-year college graduate

brettportraitbw“WTF?”

That was my immediate…and abbreviated…thought as I opened an envelope from the University of Texas at Austin and stared down at a card that said “Happy 25 years!”

“There must be some mistake,” was my second thought.  It can’t be 25 years since I graduated from college.

I graduated from UT in 1988.

88....98....13.  Let's see, that's 10, 20...wait.  WTF, indeed.

I tossed the tauntingly cheerful card in the trash.  Actually, I buried it underneath the banana peel and coffee grinds, lest someone break into my house and think they were robbing a senior citizen.   I hopped on my bike and pedalled off to get my hair cut at Salon Diversions, counting the decades (and a half) over and over again with each pothole I dodged.

Slumping into her chair, I told Cara, my stylist, about my surprise card.

“Holy crap,” said Shannon, the sweet young thing who cuts hair next to Cara and had overheard my whining.   “I wasn’t even born 25 years ago,” she said.   And she’s engaged to be married.  Legally.

“Relax,” said Cara.  “You’re not old.  Now, hold still and let me get at those hairs coming out of your ears.”

I repeat:  W...T....F?

Sure, 1988 was awhile ago.  Cher wasn’t even given farewell tours back then.  But 25 years ago?  No way.  Maybe I hit "pause" somewhere along the way.  You know, somewhere between "Relax", "Ray of Light" and " Song for the Lonely".   And then forgot to restart the time machine.

When I graduated college, I remember what I thought of people who had been out of school for 25 years.

They were old.

Yet, sitting here today, I  don't feel old.   And people tell me I don’t look my age.  Though, now that I think about it, people only say you don’t look your age when you’re an age they assume you don’t want to look.  Think about it, no one tells a college graduate, “Wow, you don’t look 22!”  But they do tell Grandma, “80?  You can’t be 80!  Why, you don’t look a day over 75.”

Of course, I know that 25 years out of college has nothing on 35 years…or 50.  Still, I also know that I’ve crossed a certain threshold by being out of school for a quarter century.

For one thing, in the gay community, I’ve crossed that dreaded threshold when cute young guys aren’t calling me “sir” because they’re being flirty or cruisy.

No.   They’re calling me  “sir” because they’re being respectful.  As in, I could be their father.  For real.

I’ve also crossed  a major cultural threshold.  I was reminded of this while having drinks a few weeks back with my NolaVie colleague, Joey Albanese, who writes a weekly column on being 20-something.  Joey was being a good friend and telling me 25 years wasn’t that long ago, that I didn’t look my age (uh, please see above), etc.

Feeling better, I said to him, “Think about it. The Love Boat had barely gone off the air in 1988.”

“Wait,” Joey interrupted.  “The what?”

Sigh.

Mostly, though, I’ve crossed a threshold of gratitude.

Gratitude that, despite coming of age in the days of the Great Plague, I’m still here.  So many of my brothers are not.

Gratitude that, as I look back over the past 25 years, I see an army of kind, wonderful, generous people whose wisdom, love and, at times, sharp pushes, have allowed me to achieve most everything I set out to accomplish.

Gratitude that, while I only cared about the answers when I graduated, today, I just love the questions.

And that, my friends, is worth celebrating, which is exactly what I’m going to do.

On the Lido Deck. With Julie McCoy….and Cher.

Happy 25, indeed!

Brett Will Taylor is a southern shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Follow him @bwtshaman, email him at [email protected] or visit his site ashamansjourney.net.

Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie.  He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.