June grads: Don't believe your parents or grandparents if they tell you that the time you just spent in high school or college represents "the best years of your life." If that were true, then the road ahead could lead only downhill — denying the profoundly desirable possibility that the greatest experiences will come near the end rather than the beginning of your journey.
My own thinking has obviously changed on this score. Like many boys of the Baby Boom generation, I grew up with the conviction that a job as a Major League ballplayer provided the most glorious career on earth. More recently, I've become convinced that another of my childhood obsessions (classical music conducting) offers even more wondrous work, and that waving a baton actually beats waving a bat. To understand the contrast, you need only compare the current standing of two contemporary superstars: Seattle Mariners designated hitter Ken Griffey Jr. and a great British conductor, Sir Colin Davis.
Griffey, approaching his 41st birthday, offers a sad shadow of his former excellence, and our Seattle media deliver frequent complaints about his punchless season. In 2010's first 50 games, the once fearsome slugger has watched his average drop below .190, with no home runs, after slapping some 630 dingers in his previous 20-year Hall of Fame-worthy career.
Sir Colin, on the other hand, is batting close to a thousand in the major leagues of international conducting — taking his achievements to unprecedented heights at age 82. In the past decade, he has issued a series of spectacularly fine recordings with the London Symphony, including thrilling versions of the Edward Elgar symphonies and violin concerto, an explosive William Walton First Symphony, an impassioned account of Haydn's The Creation and much more. Always a solid, capable interpreter, Davis in old age delivers performances that glow with new warmth, intensity and spirituality.