Friday, May 18, 2012

THE CLASS OF 2012: A Matter of Time

(Photo: Michelle Wilson)
THE CLASS OF 2012:
A Matter of Time
_______________________

Back in 1981,
I barely made it
 out of high school
with an honorary
diploma. Tonight, my
son will graduate
with honors.
_________________________

August 1999  — it literally seems like yesterday. I took my five-year-old son, Jesse, by the hand and walked him to his classroom. It was his first day of kindergarten.

Before long, I began receiving  (almost) daily  phone calls from Jesse's teacher at Christa McAuliffe Elementary in Palm Bay, Florida. She quickly was reaching her wit's end. "Oh Mr. Long," she'd frantically cry, "I just don't know how to deal with your son — he's out of control!" But Jesse soon settled down, settled in, and it was pretty much smooth sailing from there. 

Me and Jesse in 1999.
I remember loading my entire DJ rig into Jesse's classroom on "Career Day" and showing his classmates how to "rock the club." I even let them take turns giving "shout outs" on the mic. I enjoyed participating in Jesse's school-rated activities. But, I will admit that there were a few times when I fabricated a "family emergency" in order to bust him out of class early so that we could go to the movies or whatever. Those were great times. I remember thinking how those days would last forever. Yet in a flash, they were over.

Before I knew it, Jesse was entering junior high. Given his increasingly impressive grades, he was chosen to attend West Shore Junior/Senior High in Melbourne, Florida. With a focus on academic excellence, West Shore offers an ideal environment for young brainiacs. And with a zero tolerance for foolishness, it is the school of choice for parents who, like me, were horrified by the notion of our kids attending Jr. / Sr. High in a "zoo."

Jesse in 2006  before he
became too cool to smile!
(Photo: Kevin Roberts)
At first, Jesse was overwhelmed by the high standards set at West Shore. I remember his first day of seventh grade in 2006. I was in Pittsburgh, on tour, working for a well-known rock band. I became especially  heartbroken over not being in town for him when he called me that night, clearly freaking out. I told Jesse that he was the smartest kid at the school. I further encouraged him to take a deep breath and just relax. "It's okay," I reassured him. "You're going to grow up and rule the world."

As with his elementary school experience, after a bit of a bumpy start, Jesse settled into West Shore and quickly began to excel. I drove him to school and picked him up several days a week, navigating through the daily gridlock traffic in the school's car loop as well as experiencing a few run-ins with crossing guards and on-campus policemen. But those days were also wonderful and I knew that somehow, life would remain forever at a standstill. But that simply was not to be. In the blink of an eye, my son was driving, dating, and playing drums in his own band. And it was becoming abundantly clear that he no longer needed his daddy to walk him to class — those days were gone — forever.

Jesse's first gig was at a West Shore
talent show in 2009.
While remaining diligent in maintaining a near-perfect GPA, Jesse quickly became all too familiar with the pitfalls of being in a band. He soon began focusing on songwriting and recording. And as part of his Senior project, he wrote and recorded the aptly titled,  "A Matter of Time." It was selected as the official 2012 West Shore class song.

Another impressive stat  is, as an overachiever, Jesse enrolled in an early admittance program. In short, he's been doing high school and college simultaneously for the last two school years. He's currently (already) just a few credits shy of earning his AA degree from Brevard Community College. And by the end of next semester, he will likely transfer to the University of Central Florida in Orlando — majoring in Psychology.

From the 2012 West Shore yearbook.
In a recent Facebook post, Jesse commented that tonight would be "the saddest night" of his life, as he and his close circle of high school friends will all be moving on — tackling the challenges and enjoying the rewards of adult life.

I thought this day would never come. I thought that somehow, Jesse would remain my "little guy" forever. I wouldn't suggest to Jesse that this is a "sad" day, however, I will admit that it certainly is bittersweet. But that's how life works — we're continually moving forward. As a brilliant songwriter so eloquently put it, "It's a matter of time."

Jesse Long: Class of 2012!
In my life, I've been somewhat of a "dish rag." I've made missteps, too numerous (and stupid) to count. In fact, as I've pointed out, 30+ years ago, I barely made it out of high school with an honorary diploma. My son, however — well that's an entirely different story. Jesse excels at everything. He gets it  ALL right. Despite my gushing here, I have difficulty articulating precisely just how proud I am of him and what a blessing, honor and privilege it's been to be his dad. He's been my best pal. And as I told him after his traumatic first day at West Shore back in 2006, I still expect him someday to rule the world.

So, to Jesse Long and the entire West Shore Class of 2012 (Logan Moletteire included) — this is YOUR night to celebrate —  you've earned it. Now go out and have fun, be bold, and as always, make smart choices!

-Christopher Long
(May 2012)


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14 comments:

  1. Chris
    You need to now the impact you have made in a lot of peoples lives. to see your son grow throught the years is what I new would happen.You are an incredible person. I'm honored to be lucky too have a relationship with you through music in the brevard county seen.I look back on the times we had and it was such an impact in my life that I will cherish for ever. Congrads on your sons graduation and your success in your personal life. Thanks for what you have done for me.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Mr. Delaney. That's all very kind of you to say. You rock!

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  2. Congrats Jesse. I have known you since you were very young. You are an awesome young man and it has been very cool watching you grow up. I know tou will succeed in whatever you choose to do in your future.

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    1. You're our hero Dave. I love you, man!

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  3. Congratulations Jesse, and congratulations to you too, pops. Ya done good.

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    1. Thanks Beeb! Let's play some music together this summer.

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  4. What a wonderful time in both your lives! A chance to bond even closer and for Jesse to reach goals he never knew he had. It's an amazing time for him to stretch and yet remain the excellent young man he is. I'm very proud of him for all his accomplishments this far and his future ones even though I don't know him personally. As my aunt would say, Chris you done good!

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    1. Yay -- thank you, Melanie. It's so good to hear from you. FYI, the Graduation ceremony was fantastic!

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  5. When we keep our priorities straight we reap the rewards. Job well done, Jesse...and Dad! Now, go enjoy life and all it has to offer!

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    1. Ah yes. Reaping and sowing -- good stuff! Thank you SO much.

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  6. Congratulations to BOTH of you! I, as one of those teachers that got to experience the Life and Times of Jesse, enjoyed every minute of it! I had the opportunity to teach Jesse in 3rd and 4th grade and watch him grow and mature into what he still is today. Our class was a unique group that still have friendships to this day. Jesse kept me on my toes DAILY! It was so hard to reprimand him or correct him when he called out with a hilarious comment or pratical joke. I can say this NOW (although denied in class when he would say it), he truly was one of my favorite students and we are all lucky to have him go out and make HIS influence on our world.-Kathy (Lees) Dean

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    Replies
    1. Awe, Ms. Lees -- Jesse loves you. Thanks for being one of those "special" teachers in his life!

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  7. Chris, this is the most well written article about a parent/child relationship and no matter how personal it reflects what many parents feel. It, totally, brought tears to my eyes. I am proud with you for this class of 2012, of which my daughter is a part of. Although she doesn't go to West Shore, she is graduating with High Honors and moving on to be a doctor and I couldn't be more proud. Thanks for sharing your story to let the rest of us know it's ok to be sappy! Congrats, Jesse and Good Work, Daddy!

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  8. Wow, thanks "Anonymous 12:34AM." I truly appreciate your kind words. Congrats to both you and your daughter. I hope she achieves off the hook success in her medical pursuits.

    -Chris

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