This time of year, a time of proms and graduations, is one of transitions and new beginnings. Whether filled with apprehension or jubilant excitement, this time of year frequently changes the course of lives forever, in ways we intend, and ways that we do not.
part of my job is to work and observe a massive commencement ceremony each year
Despite all of the ceremonies I’ve attended over the years, they never fail to make me a bit emotional, to my chagrin. Watching proud family members sob and hug one anther; catching graduates take selfies as they grin from ear to ear; listening to deserving valedictorians share tales of hardships overcome, and how a degree, often the first in a family, is paving the way for a better life. I’ll be honest, even hearing the opening notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” tugs at my heartstrings. My eyes tear up a bit and the corners of my mouth rise to form a smile, and I find myself filled with hope and pride for hundreds of people I don’t even know, wishing that their lives turn out exactly the way they want.
After the tassles have been flipped, and the rose-colored filter of the milestone occasion fades to the stark reality of normal life, one can feel a bit lost. For any graduate, for anyone on their own for the first time, for anyone who is on the precipice of a new beginning or feels just a little bit lost, I humbly offer a few life lessons that I have learned along the way.
- Learn to expect more of yourself than others. That will take care of one source of stress.
- Always follow your instinct. That hunch, that voice in the back of your head, that feeling in the pit of your stomach…whatever form it takes, pay attention to it. Your instinct will not lead you astray.
- Don’t put a time limit on your dreams. If you don’t reach a goal by a certain time, don’t be too hard on yourself. Life has a way with obstacles, whether those that we place upon ourselves, or those we have thrown at us by outside forces. As long as you are consistently putting in the effort, your goals can be achieved. After all, Lao Tzu once said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Don’t ever diminish yourself to make others seem greater.
- Life is a journey, not a competition. And, if you must compete, only do so against yourself, to be better than you were yesterday.
- When faced with a decision, when wondering if something is worth it, ask yourself this question: Is this something that I will regret when I am in a nursing home and reflecting upon my life, or is this something that I will regret NOT doing?
- Accept that, because nothing lasts forever, people will flutter into and out of your life. Some are meant to teach us a lesson, some are meant to help us, and others are meant to inspire us. If you analyze your time with a specific person and are unable to realize what impact they made on your life, what purpose they served, don’t write off the experience as a waste of time. It only means that the other party was the one who was meant to be taught by, helped by, or inspired by you.
- Sometimes, doors remain open that you need to learn how to close. Conversely, you must also not be afraid to open the door to uncertainty. Behind that door, you might just find what you didn’t know you needed.
These lessons are not the recipe for a perfect life. Rather, please accept them as a glimpse of what life has to offer, and inspiration for how to make the most of it. Never lose that feeling of possibility and hope, of dreams, no matter how big or how small, coming true.