June 12, 2017 – Forty years ago this past weekend I graduated from high school. Many members of my graduating class flooded Facebook over the weekend with our graduation photos to show our pride and promote our 40th year reunion coming up in November. Of course, we all said the same thing…we can’t believe those 40 years passed so quickly.
Back then, Jimmy Carter was president, the first Apple computer was on the market, Elvis died at 42, Star Wars was playing in theaters across the country, and a gallon of gas cost 65 cents.
I wanted to share just how different my life turned out from what I originally planned, and perhaps offer a few pearls of wisdom to new graduates. However, looking back on what I can remember about my 17-year-old self, and what I expected to accomplish, I’m drawing a blank. I don’t recall thinking about my future at all in 1977. There are no memories about what I wanted to be or where I thought my life would go. I hadn’t thought about college yet, or a career and I certainly had no plans to get married and have children. Even though I didn’t make a plan, all of those things simply happened along the way when they were supposed to.
Turns out, like many teenagers and some very fortunate adults–according to “The Power of Now” author Elkhart Tolle–I was a live in the moment kind of a person. Tolle, whose philosophy states that living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment, believes that to be the ultimate goal. Too bad back then I didn’t realize what I had achieved.
I’d like to think I’m still that way, but I realize that I missed out on bits and pieces of my life worrying about things that I have no control over. Even though I do my best to live in each moment, I’m not always able to, and I don’t believe many adults can. But I’m OK with that, because I stay in the moment more often than not.
So, if I was to offer any sage advice to new graduates, it would be to live in the moment as often as you can. Tolle’s theory of “The Power of Now” is right on, it’s just not practical for many of us to live that way every second. I believe it’s necessary at times to think about and plan for the future. And it might even be helpful to go a little crazy once in a while; if anything, it makes you appreciate the good times.
I read once that a Chinese philosopher said, “When you do the dishes, become the dishes.” In other words, be aware of what you are doing in the moment and do it well. Very wise words.
Life teaches many us many lessons along the way, whether we have a plan in place or not. And even if we have a plan, it doesn’t always let us follow it they way we expect to. A happy compromise is an open mind and expandable plan with plenty of room for change. That’s the best life advice I have to offer.
Congratulations to the class of 2017!