This past weekend was graduation weekend and we attended a couple of our local school’s ceremonies. Commencement always makes me nostalgic and this year was even more so. Maybe it is the fact that I am coming to grips with the idea of being middle aged or it is more likely due to the imminent possibility that I will have a graduating senior next year. In any case, I found myself lost in thoughts about life and what I have learned in the last twenty some years.
One of the things that go along with being an Extension Agent and working with the 4-H program for many years was attending all those graduations. While I was often sad about losing my best leaders I was also excited to see what my 4-Hers would go on to accomplish. I started thinking about what I wish someone would have told me at graduation. I admit that I would love to have the opportunity to speak at a graduation and I would love to impart advice to graduates.
The first thing I would tell any graduate (or anyone for that matter) is to set your sights high and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. OK so maybe professional sports are out of the reach for most of us at an early age, but pretty much anything else is still in play. Too often I think we listen to others around us who don’t really know us and let them guide our lives. Goals should be high, not easily attainable and no one should ever dictate them to you.
Pick a profession because it is your passion and never because of the salary. We can all think of people we know who truly love their jobs. They live, breath and eat what they do and we all love to be around them. If you are passionate about what you do the benefits of that passion will come to you. It may or may not be money but it will bring happiness and that is more important than money.
Nothing is ever as bad as it might seem. My greatest lessons have come from my lowest points. Learn from what happened, resolve to correct any mistakes, dust yourself off and move on. I am absolutely convinced that my greatest achievements have come as a direct result from my worst failures. No matter how dark things may look it will get better, which is the beauty of life.
Enjoy each phase of your life and never spend your life looking ahead or behind. Many people tell you that high school is the best time of your life. I have to admit it was pretty good but college was good, being a single adult in the working world was good, having a young family was pretty awesome. Each part of your life is good, enjoy the here and now and don’t wish your life away.
Never miss a chance to spend time with the people who are important to you. Nothing is guaranteed and the relationships we have with friends and family are the most important things we can have. I would rather be a poor man with many friends and a close family than a rich man all alone. Your goals and ambitions are important but don’t let them overshadow your relationships.
Never pass up a chance to stop, take a moment and relax. Enjoy the little things in life. Work hard, be driven but every once in a while allow yourself to slow down. Life goes by at such a rush that we all need time to take a moment when we have a chance and sit in silence and listen to the world around us. Personally, I don’t think there is anything better than a cup of coffee before the rest of the world starts moving each morning.
Finally, the best advice I ever got was to have fun. Dana Belshe was my mentor agent when I started in Extension and he gave me this advice about being an agent and I think it applies to life pretty well. The people around you will have as much fun as you let yourself have. It worked at the most stressful times when I was an agent, camp and fair, and it works in life too. Often those around us mirror our attitude.
OK, so I know you didn’t ask for my dream commencement address but you got it anyway. I just think it is good for all of us, no matter what phase of life we are in, to take a moment and think about life. In a way we are all graduating from something each year.