This is a stereotypical graduation post, I know.
Two of my siblings walked the stage today, and I couldn’t be more proud. It was weird being back in my high school, even weirder to be back in that ceremony. But wow, what an experience. To be on the other side, to see all of these high school seniors bright-eyed, looking forward to their summer before they start college and knowing they’ll do incredible things. I also learned a bit about myself today.
The faculty speaker at the graduation, a dude very near and dear to my heart, had some of the best words [well, more like ideas/concepts] of the whole ceremony, and I just have to put them here because they were so important, in addition to some words of my own. Being at the ceremony made me aware of so much– from my personal growth since sitting there in a cap and gown, to the acknowledgement of the growth that I know I have yet to happen.
So here’s a list of random things that I want to pass along to all those who are continuing on their journey, whether that’s jumping straight into the business world, taking a bit of a life-pause, or continuing on to college.
Remember these “inequalities of life”. [I’m pulling right from the speech of the beloved faculty speaker I mentioned earlier, here]:
EXPERIENCES > POSESSIONS
TIME > MONEY
OTHER > SELF
Fact of the matter is, all of things that are “less than” are not the things we’ll be missing when we look back on our lifetime, when we make the judgement and the statements of regret. So the gift of your time [for yourself or for others], the respect and care for others, and the memories you make are all going to be superior to any tangible thing you could ever want.
You will never regret being kind. If you have the opportunity, take it. Also, there is a difference between being nice and being kind. Flashing a fake smile is an illusion of kindness; sitting with someone, talking to them and going the extra mile is not only the better way to build connections, it’s more fulfilling.
Do your best to value sleep. If your sleep habits are reasonably good, a lot of other ones will fall into place. You need sleep to function.
Take time to self-reflect. For me, this means writing here. This means keeping a journal, this means reading other things. Often. All of these help me get back on track, whenever I feel as if I’ve gone off of the rails of who I am, or who I used to be.
Turn off your phone sometimes. Being behind a screen all day is more insidious than you’d think. Take a break, go for a walk, or a run, or pick up a book or call someone up [do people even call other people nowadays?] NOT on speakerphone, so you can’t be tempted to multitask while building friendship connections.
Do your best to fail productively. No one likes failure, no one likes rejection, no one likes disapproval. But if you know how to take those things, look at them objectively and see where the wheels came off and even more importantly, look at it from a “what did I gain from this?” perspective, it’ll be a lot more easy-going.
Build tiny routines into your week. That way, when everything feels like it’s falling apart
coughespeciallyduringmidtermsfinalsweekcough , you at least know you can expect to be doing some small things as scheduled, such as making your bed, writing/reading every night before bed, starting the morning with a stretch and/or a prayer, etc.
Drink water. Lots of it. End of story.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. This was mentioned the graduation speech today, but it’s also something I’ve held onto for a really long time that I was reminded of today. Embrace the quirks, the imperfections, and know that it’s okay to be human sometimes. There’s times and places to be serious, like in your work and at funerals. But sometimes, it’s just necessary to be goofy, to fail often, and look at yourself in an honest, candid, not-too-harsh light.
Consume carefully. Be an intelligent consumer. Be thrifty, have a budget. It’ll save you SO much stress and uncertainty down the road. And that’s just for shopping. I also mean be a careful consumer of media. Be reluctant to trust things until you’ve looked at multiple sources. Be wary of the terms and agreements [read them through before checking yes!!]. Consume consciously. Aka don’t fall into auto-pilot mode and scroll for eternity– be mindful about what you’re looking for and consider why you may be looking for those things. AND. In the realm of alcohol… just remember that you have a choice, and that consequences will kick in the moment that drink touches your lips, and you have to be willing to accept those.
Do not rely solely on others for your happiness. This is something that I have struggled with [and continue to struggle with] for a long time. Whether it’s friends, a relationship, or some other source of something– the fact is, if there is unhappiness rooted deep within you, chances are it needs to be addressed where it is–deep within you, in areas you wouldn’t think to look in, in areas that instinct and desire for comfort tells you to avoid. Which brings me to the next one…
Embrace the uncomfortable. Before I left school for the summer, I saw a TEDTalk about how we should be striving to immerse ourselves [when we can] in the unfamiliar, to explore what is different from is. This is how we learn. This is how we find similarities amidst differences we thought we couldn’t see past. This is how we bridge the gaps. Try saying “yes” to things that [situationally] make you uncomfortable. I’m not saying abandon your morals or sacrifice your safety– I mean more along the lines of engaging in [perhaps] challenging civil discourse, making the first move to befriend someone, going to a club or organization meeting just to try it. Whatever you do, there’s something to learn from it.
Take pride in all you do, and don’t be afraid to be a “try-hard”. Trying hard doesn’t have to mean you’re a nerdy show-off. No, in fact, just the opposite. It means that you quietly show up, you get ready for success every day because you did your best to prepare, put your best effort forth, you do your best to meet in the middle, and have confidence in your skill.
Keep up with at least 1 of your passions on the side. Gives you something to look forward to on a weekly basis, as well as a safe space to learn and grow, and further figure out what your interests are.
Speak up when your gut tells you you need to. That’s the only way we’re going to beat an insidious indifference, looming hatred, and other nonsensical injustice.
Whole-ass everything. Your homework. Your friendships. Your art. Your instrument. Your practice. Your relationships. Things change, people change, sometimes it ends in heartbreak but embrace the risk. Embracing the risk in the first place is what catapults you into learning about yourself.
Befriend vulnerability. Whatever that means to you– breaking the small-talk routines and injecting a bit of yourself into daily discourse, admitting from time to time that no, you’re not “fine”, or not being afraid to tell someone how you feel. This one was/is a big one for me. You don’t have to be “on” all of the time, and sometimes it’s great to just be alone with your thoughts and your truth, even if it’s far from “perfect”. Perfection is a myth, anyway.
TALK IT OUT. I’m thinking more in the realm of relationships here… but. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Letting them in on your uncertainty, your doubts, your fears, your desires, whatever it may be– it’s those often difficult conversations that are going to bridge the gap between separate understandings, separate truths– and it’s ultimately what paved the way for authentic friendships.
…And LISTEN even harder. Good, active listening means immersing yourself in the words of another as they’re saying them, empathizing and showing you care. It’s harder than it looks. But it’s so much better than rapid-firing retorts back and forth and using the other person’s speech as planning time for what you’re going to say right back to the person. Also always be willing to practice this.
Have hope, and dwell in gratitude often. “When life closes a door, God opens a window.” I have never experienced this more than I have in the past year, I’m pretty sure. There’s always a way, there’s always something to look forward to, even if it seems a bit far in the distance or non-existent. Having faith is key. So being able to sit down and look around at what you have and realize that it’s enough, that you’ve been blessed with so much already that you need to put the breaks on chasing unnecessary desires, is a really, really important tool to have.
I could probably go on and on but the truth is I’m still learning how to implement these more fully myself, and I have so much to learn in the meantime.
But for now, just focus on being you and staying true to what you know you want.