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The number 14

Posted: May 8, 2014 3:49 p.m.
Updated: May 9, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Here we go … again. It is time for caps and gowns, tassels and farewells, last times and the number 14. Graduation, life’s remarkable onward-looking ceremony, is upon us accompanied with all its pomp and circumstance. For me, it’s the second high school graduation in two years for our family. Two down, three to go, and 40 percent closer to becoming an empty nester. OK, I’m not intentionally rushing this thing called life, only trying to be real in what’s ahead on the road.

Not many like change; it generally gets a bad rap and is necessary and unavoidable. But it can be a vivid spot on our maps pointing us in a certain direction. Better, a bright mark on their maps. As arduous as it can be for many of us, this juncture of life is more about the graduates. For this fleeting moment in their lives, it’s all about them. They are at center stage and the spotlight is turned on. It is bright. We have their attention. What can we tell them? What more can they possibly learn? A lot. Let’s give it a shot.

Over this brief span of time, the minds of these 18-year-olds are brimming with thoughts of AP exams, their last soccer or baseball or football game, their final SAT, the friends they may never see again, the parking space they’ll give up, the pictures they still need to take, senior week, X-Box, the beach, freedom -- all reasonable images, but ones that will unequivocally fade over time.

To the graduates: remember you can’t be the best at everything you are and do. By definition, there can only be one best. But it is OK. It absolutely is. You do not have to be the best to be great at what you do in life. You’ll come to find from this point on there are no ribbons or trophies for participation or for merely showing up. More will be expected. Nevertheless, you can find the best in yourself by winning as many of life’s experiences as you possibly can.

Get hired. Get fired. Make A’s. Fail. Love. Feel heartbreak. Be scared. Be at peace. See the world. Come home. Cry. Laugh. Be quiet. Shout. Work hard. Play a lot. Give more than you receive. Feel self-pride. Be sad. Be happy. Make mistakes. Learn. Read books. Write letters. Be fair. Do not judge. The tides will always turn. Deal with disappointment. Feel confident. Be a gentle giant.

Only you can define the person you want to be. Let nothing else get in the way of becoming your best. You are not defined by the number of likes or a status or how many cyberspace friends you have. Television is not real life. Life doesn’t happen in a coffee shop. (Though coffee, in my opinion, has been known to solve many of life’s dilemmas -- take it to go!) Learn the difference between selflessness and selfishness. It is important. Be curious. Be optimistic. Trust the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something whether it is your faith, your gut, karma -- whatever. Believe.

Know that feeling good about yourself and who you are becoming, your genuine achievements are far more important than the accolades. Never stop broadening your interests. You never know what can come from experiencing something for the first time.

Scale the mountain not so people can see you but for the enormous challenge the climb brings. Enjoy the air at the top as much as the air on the way up. Life is meant to be experienced, not just accomplished.

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