Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Graduation Speeches

I always enjoy the snippets of graduation speeches that we get to watch this time of year on national and local news programs. I like to hear what the speakers say to the graduates, what advice they give. I enjoy them now even though I realize that after more than twenty-five years since I graduated from college and even more years since high school graduation, I have no recollection of any of the speeches or bits of wisdom I received when I received a diploma. For the life of me, I don’t even know who the speakers were. But this spring as I reach the milestone of turning fifty, I have a clearer idea of what I wish I had been told as I was setting out to begin my life as a young adult. I wish I had been told that life rarely works out like I expect it and that it’s okay to make plans but I should be prepared to let them go and make new ones. Someone should have told me to lighten up and not take things so seriously. At the age of eighteen or even twenty-two I really didn’t have to figure out what I intended to do with the rest of my life since now I know that idea has gone through many revisions. It would have been nice to know I could relax and enjoy my youth a little more than I did. I wish I would have been counseled to find out what makes me happy and not rely solely upon others to bring me joy. I wish I would have been told to let myself be surprised and delighted by the world. I think I knew this at an early age, but it would have been nice to be reminded to tell the people I love that I love them since no one ever really knows when a last time for that is happening. It would have made things a lot easier if I had learned early in my friendships and marriage that it is better to be in right relationship than it is to be right. And finally, I wish I had known how important it is to be kind because I have certainly come to understand that above all things, kindness does matter. I write all these words of wisdom now thinking that if I had heard them in graduation speeches I might have been more attentive to the important things of life in the last thirty years and saved myself a lot of grief. But I know better. Most of the significant lessons in life don’t come from a speech on graduation day. The most important lessons of life are those we learn by living, by trying and failing and trying again, by listening to our hearts, and by figuring things out for ourselves. Speeches are inspirational, even educational, but the truth is, only when we live life do we really ever learn the lessons.

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