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When there's no path, make a trail

Posted: May 3, 2012 4:21 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2012 5:00 a.m.

I can hardly say this was a bolt from the blue. I mean I’ve always known this day would come. I’ve had a generous 17 years to prepare for this crossroad in my life. This should be an easy transition for all involved, right? Ok, maybe not exactly. Wow. Graduation announcements? Cap and gown? Excuse the cliché, but where has the time gone? The pace in which time flies by is alarming. And when I pause and reflect too intensely on the image of my oldest son graduating high school, it almost feels hard to breath. It’s like a vacuum sucking time away and I can’t turn it off. Lately, my psyche has become cluttered with thoughts of photographs not taken; games not seen; field trips not accompanied; words not expressed; time not spent. But I quickly turn it around and remind myself of the 90 plus soccer games seen; the dozen class trips made; the 18 photo albums on the shelf; and the hours and hours spent discussing frogs, snakes, mud, trucks, best friends, Thomas the Tank, and bicycle helmets. Then more hours answering questions about where God lives; why the ocean water is salty; why mountains are so tall; and why do I have to be nice to my little brother. I remember and I smile as I think of all my son has accomplished in nearly 18 years. Reflection can be difficult but is good and powerful as well.  

So at this turning point, I consider what I would like to communicate to my son, his friends, and any young person moving on to the next stop on their train ride. These graduates will hear our voices as we convey our sentiments of “congratulations”; “good-luck”; and “study-hard next year”. But will they listen? Maybe it’s all in the way we deliver our advice. We want to give them the kind of wisdom they will take with them and revisit time and again. I’ll give it a shot.

1. Always set goals. Some you’ll achieve; some you will not but it’s the unachieved goals that will serve as steps in reaching the others. Strengthen yourself with virtues that will enable you to get there -- patience; devotion to duty; honesty; faith and hope; integrity.

2. “Keep on asking and the gift will be given you … keep on knocking and the door will open to you.”  Keep asking; keep seeking; keep knocking. Never stop learning and moving forward. Make use of every opportunity to absorb all the knowledge you can.

3. Follow your passion and be happy in what you do. Don’t let the opinions of others drown out your inner voice. Have the courage to follow your intuition, your heart. Get to know and accept your own strength and weaknesses.

4. Accept failure with dignity. There will be hurdles you’ll have to get over more than once. When you fall, get up and keep going. React positively to failure. You’ll be amazed how high a good attitude can take you. Be resilient.

5. “For of those to who much is given, much is required.” Give back and serve in whatever way you can. You have had and will have many opportunities. Pay it forward. Your successes can be defined in what you do for the world and not what the world does for you. Service always remains better than selfishness.

6. There’s no substitute for hard work. Think big and shoot for the stars. You’ll miss 100% of the shots you never take so have the courage to try over and over.

7. Respect your future. Make choices now that will make you happy for a long time, not just the next 2 seconds.

8. Have the courage to get out of your comfort zone, even if it means being uncomfortable. It is on the road less traveled that your character will be truly tested. Courage will be required of you on many fronts. Have the courage to seek truth; speak truth; stand up for the under-dog. Have the courage to trust your understanding of right and wrong. Have the courage to love unconditionally.

9. Be kind. Be kind to your friends; be kind to your family; be kind to yourself.

10. Finally, find the joy. Laugh often and much. Life goes by in an instant. Slow down enough to appreciate those small pieces of glittering mica on the long stretch of the trail. Your trail.

Live out loud every day.

And Lucas, Henry, Sam, Rob, Dillon, Doug, Jr., Josh, Tripp, Ethan and Davis, hope you were listening.


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