Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thinking on Graduation... Advice to a Younger Me

With graduation over here at the college and fast approaching for the local high schools, I can't help but reflect back on my life at those two points.  I truly have no regrets, because I've got a good life, but I do think that a different perspective would have been nice.  I'll never speak at a graduation ceremony, because I tend to say y'all a little too much and even though I am a professor, I am far from an academic. (I determined this when one of my DNP professors was talking about how much they liked to watch CSPAN and read journal articles, and I thought, "Give me Dance Moms or give me death. Or at least a little sappy Nicholas Sparks to read.  Or Janet Evanovich... where you know that she's going to buy donuts and Granny's going to tip over a casket and someone's car is going to get blown up... but I digress).

Anyway, as I thought about graduation time, here is what I'd like to say to my younger self (or to someone who may have similar thought processes to me...) And I've also included some of the top commencement speeches of all times, as rated by Time magazine, because I'm just not that inspirational.

1. Let it Go.  Seriously.  And this ain't the song from Frozen.  All that drama.  Just breathe it out... because it really doesn't mean anything anyway. I look back over my high school years and am seriously appalled at the way that I acted sometimes.  I feel like I should just say a blanket apology to anyone who knew me back then.  And I have apologized many times to my mother. 

See, that wasn't really me.  Or at least I'd like to think it wasn't me.  That bratty snob didn't really think she was better than everyone... it was just a cover for my introverted, lack of social skills ways. Or at least that is now how I delude myself into rationalizing my behavior.  You'll still see a bit of that reservation, but what I've learned is that most of the time, if I'm uncomfortable in a new situation, everyone else is, too.

2. Be everyone's friend.  Now this doesn't mean that you always have to hold hands and sing Kumbaya together around the campfire, or share each other's clothes and giggle until all hours of the night.  However, the reasons teenagers don't like each other are just silly... but not to them (so please don't be offended if you're a teenager girl reading this.  I love my girls and am just trying to save you some angst).  You'll never know how much a simple smile, a wave, a hello in the hallway may mean to someone.  Lord knows I wish I had smiled more.

3. Loved this one from a Steve Jobs speech at Stanford, "Time is Limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."  You are unique.  You are awesome.. unless you are the bratty snob that I described in #1.  We only have so much time on this earth.  I have really been thinking about this one the last few months.  Don't waste your time on what is unimportant.  Think for yourself.  You're almost adults... so even though you don't want to disappoint Mom and Dad, don't live out their life if it isn't what you want for yourself.  I see this a lot of times in students who enter a program because it was expected of them... and they are either unsuccessful, miserable while they are completing, or miserable in the workforce.  Life is too short to be miserable.  Choose to pursue your own dreams.  Life may not be a bed of roses, but it won't stink like manure, either.

4. And from Bradley Whitford, to Wisconsin: "At the end of your days, you will be judged by your gallop, not by your stumble." You will stumble.  You will fail.  You will barely pass a class, or, God forbid, get an E assigned.  Just don't get the incomplete... unless you really plan on finishing.  Don't quit. Don't give up.  Keep your eyes on the biggest prize... and for goodness sake, don't be paralyzed by fear of failure. Too many times I let the words, "I'm not good enough" or "You'll never be able to do that" keep me from taking action.

As JK Rowling said, "Failure is not fun. It can be awful. But living so cautiously that you never fail is worse."

5. Exercise.  Please.  As you go to college, that freshman 15 is not a myth.  Then, you get into harder classes, and your study routine involves eating chips as you flip over notecards.  Force yourself to get off your butt and move.  This 34 year old woman will be the first to tell you that once you have a baby, you'll be wishing you were in the habit of moving...

6. Learn to laugh at yourself.  Never take yourself too serious.  And learn to laugh in general... every day.  Laughter really does improve your health.

7. Accept that you will never be finished learning until the day you die.  There will always be something new to learn.  Our world changes so quickly, and we must all be prepared to adapt.  Seek out learning experiences.  Meet new people.  Try new things.  And, again, don't be afraid to fail.

8. Cherish each moment... because you'll never get them again.  Don't spend so much time worrying about yesterday or tomorrow that you don't enjoy the sunshine on your face today.

And I don't know that Mother Teresa ever spoke with graduates, but if you live life by this quote, it'll all work out in the end. "People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.  If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.  What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.  if you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.  The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.  Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway. "

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