Advice for the Graduate

hat tossing ceremony at graduation

hat tossing ceremony at graduation

Dear Graduate,

On this occasion we hear a lot, maybe too much, about perseverance and accomplishment.  We endure cliche speeches about blank slates and new horizons.  None of it is untrue.  This is the perfect time to turn regrets into opportunities as you start afresh.

I hope you will use this time to SEE your life, not judge it. Resist the urge to reflect on how you could have been or should have been different. You have always been perfectly you. There are no mistakes. You may want to do things differently in the future and that’s okay. But let the reason be because you love who you’ve become and what you’ve learned – not because you dislike who you used to be.

Be proud if you’ve succeeded in the classroom or on the field.  But be more proud if you’ve walked a path of integrity.  Have you been a good friend?  An honest worker?  A helper?  If you haven’t met with success in these ways, make this your new goal – to be a quality person in the world.  Of all the things you’ve learned over many years, this is the most important.  The world doesn’t care what you do – it has a job for everyone.  But it does need you to bring the best you’ve got.

Value what you’ve been taught but give yourself permission to unlearn.  Loosen your grip on core standards and cookie-cutter expectations.  Embrace the freedom of greeting each new experience with an open mind and a generous heart.

Graduation is magnanimous but it is not the last ending nor the last beginning.  You are an ever-evolving being in an every-changing world.  Stay present.  Let go.  Savor each moment lest you miss your life.

Graduate, you have finished a chapter of your life.  It was a big one.  Remember that it was only part of your story.  May your history inform your future only to the extent that it lends perspective on your choices.

I wish you success by your own measure; joy that cannot contain itself; and love that bursts forth from within you, reflecting in everything and everyone that surrounds you.

The Secret to Life

savor-the-flavorA well-intentioned adult gave our soon-to-be high school graduate this advice: “Savor everything right now. This is the best time of your life!”

This one thought stimulated a frenzy of conversation about what it means to savor. Afraid that she would not grasp the concept and would miss an important passage into young adulthood, Principessa desperately tried to hold on to every Senior experience. One would have thought that she was living the last few breaths of her life the way she attacked each day.

We began to unwind her desperation with the help of our old friend Merriam-Webster who told us to
 savor the best in life: give oneself to the enjoyment of:

As Principessa headed off for her first parentless weekend away with friends, I had to check my emotions in the driveway and remind myself that perhaps I, too, needed to work more on savoring and less on sadness as I prepared to send her off to college.

Of many neighborhood parties that we’ve hosted, this weekend would mark the first at which Principessa wouldn’t be present. Her absence was palpable, to me at least. It’s a strange feeling to be without our family cheerleader.

I was tempted to lament the impermanence of these gatherings, but as I looked around at a field of families laughing and playing, and felt the palpable energy of their joy, I couldn’t deny the completeness of the moment. Life, and happiness, was happening, as it does.

I immersed myself so deeply into the experience, in fact, that I found myself wearing a silly grin from ear to ear. The pitch of his voice. The animation in her face. The sight of frolicking. The sound of laughter. I leaned in and felt it all while simultaneously stepping back to appreciate it.

In this savoring state, I burst forth with a toast of gratitude, “For this!” I said. It was a feeling of love that couldn’t be held be back. I’m fairly certain that at least a couple neighbors wondered how much alcohol I had consumed. But truthfully, I hadn’t had a drop. I was drunk on the moment. I had experienced savoring.

When Principessa returned home, she had a similar tale to share about her carefree time with friends. “I didn’t want the weekend to end because it was SO much fun. But I wasn’t sad either because I enjoyed each moment. I just went with it.”

Principessa discovered, as I did, that savoring is exactly the opposite of holding on. Trying to grasp experiences and freeze time is an exercise in futility that leads to regret. In contrast, being present for this moment, and this moment, and this one…never holding on for longer than it lasts, is the magic formula for savoring.

Be present. Feel. Appreciate. Let go. And life will be savored.

The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.” James Taylor

%d bloggers like this: