Once, I was in your shoes; I was 18 and graduating from high school. Like you, I was anxious to move on to another place with new faces. I knew that there was a big world out there, and I was excited for the change I was about to undergo, but I did not know the meaning of that word until much later. Change comes whether you are ready or not. It is coming to you now, and my advice to you is three-fold.
Do what you love. It is much more important than how much money you make. Kent Nerburn, one of my very favorite authors, says it best when he writes, “Choose your work carefully. No matter how much you might believe that your work is nothing more than what you do to make money, your work makes you who you are because it is where you put your time. We are what we do, and the more we do it, the more we become it. By giving a job your time, you are giving it your consciousness. Eventually, it will fill your life with the reality it presents. Consider what your job will require you to do on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute basis. See if that is how you want to spend your time. If it is not, your job will become your prison rather than your vehicle of dreams. And a person without dreams is only half alive. You should think of your work as a vocation, which comes from the Latin word for calling, which comes from the word for voice. In those meanings, it touches on what work really should be-something that calls to you, that gives voice to who you are and what you want to say in the world. If you find a vocation, embrace it. You have found a way to contribute to the world with love” (Nerburn, Simple Truths). Doing what you love makes any change that comes your way easier. My wish for you is that you not only have a job you truly love but one that is vocational and helps you walk the path you’ve been made for.
Secondly, be open to what the world sends your way. You have your plans and sometimes, they work out. Other times, there might be some strong wind that day or powerful waves; be willing to adjust your sail accordingly. In the words of Alexander Bell, American inventor and educator, “when one door closes, another opens.” Lord Alfred Tennyson, British poet, wrote, the shell must break before the bird can fly.…” Life is not always easy. Plans do not always work out. If you are willing to be flexible and open to the change that is coming, you will be rewarded. Once my misfortune of not getting the home I wanted led to a job at a school I loved, and finally, through many twists and turns, to jobs in other places. Sometimes, what seems like misfortune is actually fortune wearing different clothes. Change isn’t always easy, but if you are willing to be flexible and open to the changes that are in store for you, the rewards can be enormous.
Finally, take calculated risks. I have found that most anything good comes from taking a risk. Don’t be scared to go out on a limb if you’ve evaluated your options and deemed the choice worthy. Don’t be afraid to jump too high, stretch too far, or work too hard. American athlete, Alan Webb, is quoted as saying, “Good things happen when you go for it!” A Zen adage says it best, “Leap and the net shall appear.” There are times when continuing with something is easier than walking away, but sometimes, you will need to take a risk. When I left a teaching job I loved, a friend told me that when you feel really, really comfortable, you are not being challenged. As I looked at him through teary eyes, I realized that growing is sometimes uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable, but if I hadn’t left what was very comfortable, I wouldn’t have grown as a teacher, mother, or writer. I would have missed so many opportunities if I had not taken the risk. Paulo Coelho tells us in The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Have faith that God will carry you through the changes and take the risk.
When you’re my age, who knows where you will be or who you will have become. Your change, most likely, will be very different from mine, and I wish you all the tools you need to navigate your own, amazing life. I wish you all the best life has to offer. I wish you a job in which you feel rewarded, a ship with powerful sails, and a loved one to hold your hand while you jump (and maybe another one with the net to catch you), and finally, of course, I wish you a good book to get you through the rough patches, and a nice journal to record it all. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “limitless like the ocean are your excellent qualities.” Go forth in the world with all of your excellent qualities. Robert Browning, English poet, says it best when he writes, “The best is yet to be!”
Thanks for Mothering the Dividewith me here on a weekend filled with graduation ceremonies.
© Kara Lawler, 2007/2012/2016 Adapted from graduation speeches given in 2007 and 2012
___________________________ Amazing gift ideas for the graduate:
*Buy Kent’s book, Simple Truths (one of my most favorite books) here: http://kentnerburn.com/kent-nerburn/books/
*Find out more about Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist, the best book I’ve ever read, here: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/