An open letter to the graduating class of 2021
(20 to 30 minute read):-
If you didn’t already know it, you may be learning it now. That life,- turns on a dime. Without a moments notice, the rug can be pulled right out from under your feet.
That may be the biggest lesson of this tumultuous past year.
In taking a look back at my own life, I have some fond memories living in my mind, from my childhood days of traveling to visit my dear sweet little old grandmother. Upon my arrival at her home, in short order I would find my way down a flight of creaky old steps into her basement, where I would spend time exploring a treasure-trove of boxes full to the brim with old photographs, and artwork, and all kinds of antique objects,- it was a magical little world in her basement for a little boy!
The main attraction for me though, were the shelves where she had neatly stored hundreds of back issues of “Readers Digest.” They had a series of survival stories in them called ‘Drama in Real Life,’ that I really enjoyed, and I’d sit there reading quietly for hours.
My favorite story, the one that I remember to this day, was about a man who was out hiking with his wife, enjoying the day when all of a sudden out of nowhere,- they were savagely attacked and mauled by a grizzly bear! But they survived their injuries, and basically crawled back to civilization! An exciting read for a ten year old kid!
But what I’m getting around to, is on the way in and out of the basement, I would pass by a shelf full of paper towels, covering the entire length of an old, dank cinderblock wall.
We used to lovingly refer to my little grandmother as a ‘pack-rat.’ As a little girl she had grown up in extreme depression-era poverty in the hills of South Carolina. She didn’t throw anything away if there was the slightest chance that it could be useful one day. And I do mean,- the slightest!
Well as the story goes, one day we were all gathered around in the living room of her small home, shamelessly teasing her about her pack-rat ways, when someone turned to her and said, “What do you think is gonna happen? Do you think the store is going to run out of paper towels??”
And then we all started just laughing our little asses off.
But then I have this super vivid memory of her,- this sweet, kind, quirky little old lady looking over at me, knowingly nodding her head, and with a twinkle in her eye, she said;-
“Well,… it can happen.”
That little old lady knew more than all of us put together.
In the blink of an eye, everything that is normal, can be not so normal.
God promises us nothing, but the here and now.
We tend to get so comfortable in the present, sometimes we forget that it can all disappear in an instant.
At this time in your life, I know that you personally may be struggling with choices regarding career, and continuing education, and where and how you should live your life,- all of the things a person would normally be wondering about at your age,-… but in this case, all amidst a background of the fear and uncertainties created by a global pandemic. Like everyone else, you have no precedent to look to. No guide. And you may be asking yourself,- “how will I find my place?,”… “How will I fit my life into this world?”
You may be feeling as if you just stepped out of a cave, your eyes blinking in the sunlight. It’s a strange, new world.
On top of this, it’s possible that you may also be a very special individual who is looking around and recognizing with urgency that there are some very important issues facing the world. These may be things that you learned about in class, or these may be things that you learned about reading out somewhere on your own:- things like the slow destruction of our planet, and the impacts of air pollution, and water pollution, and global warming. And you may be feeling dwarfed by the enormity of it all.
And wondering,.. “Is there anyway I can live my life in this world,.. in a way that actually makes a difference?”
The reason I am writing you today is because I want you to know I truly believe the answer is yes!
You CAN make a difference.
A big reason why I’m spending my time writing this blog is to make that very point!
But should you choose to take on the challenge,- I mean really take your shot at making this world a better place,- I don’t care whether you want to be a researcher or inventor of science & technology, or practice politics, or just take part in some good old grassroots activism,- there’s something that I want to share with you that I think you should know about.
So that you’ll recognize it as it approaches.
And for most of you it WILL approach, trust me.
So, just to give you a little heads up..
See, the thing is,- if you are that rare gem of a person, (and I believe you are!) that has the outlook of a youthful idealist,…
… and you’re thinking of dedicating your life to the mission of making the world a better place…
Then, beginning as soon as you graduate, the ‘system’ that rules this world is going to try to make you forget about the ideals that are in your head right now. Try to get you to dismiss your ideas, as young and foolish!
Nope,- this is not anything spooky or weird.
And nope,- it’s not a conspiracy theory.
It’s just a plain simple fact of life.
And here is how it works:
The world is going to try to make you forget the questions you are asking. It will try to make you forget the things you want to change. It will try to make you forget about any form of activism or risk-taking.
Responsibility will rear it’s ugly head!
The world will try to get you to lower your vision; to drop your eyes away from the distant future, and it will try to get you to narrow your focus right down to the path at your feet. The way it will do this is by using your own good common sense against you.
As you move into the next stage of your life, there will be student loans to pay, and there will be utility bills to pay, and planes to catch, the next house to show, and expensive healthcare payments to make.
There will be some practical issues that you will need to pay attention to!
And they will be competing with the desire you are having now, to make the world a better place.
Using these practical everyday things, the system will begin to make you feel,… how shall I describe it?,-
Kind of like you’re in a little spaceship!
Like you’re flying close to the outer rim of a black hole that’s trying to suck you in! Get its hooks into you! Keep your mind on making the next sale. Keep your head above water. Getting the next paycheck. Making you forget where you were originally headed.
That’s how it starts.
You see, when you start to feel small in the world, you start to feel vulnerable. When that happens, you shift your focus to self-interest.
It will be a wake-up call. The cozy confines of school, with it’s sheltered community and lively discussions of academia,- those things will be a thing of your past life. Out in the real world, things work different.
Welcome to reality my friend!
And speaking of friends;-
There may be pressure from your friends.
You may see them lovingly scratching their heads,- wondering what to do with you!
There may be pressure from your family.
Possibly from romantic partners.
The people around you will need you to fall in line.
As you move forward, the best advice I can give you is to always listen to your own inner voice, and listen to your heart.
Don’t be afraid to be different.
In the world we live in, the term ‘responsibility’ refers primarily to protecting and safe guarding our own lives and assets as individuals. And those of our immediate families.
The framers of our constitution, as descendants of the enlightenment movement from Europe, thought of this as our primary ‘sphere’ of influence. And they built our system around it. Including its core values, and system of government, with it’s balance of powers, and everything else that goes with it…
With a reliance upon the concept of selfishness at its core.
If your sense of responsibility is calling on you instead to transcend your sense of selfishness, and instead to protect the planet, and connect with the lives of future generations, don’t be afraid to let that feeling grow.
The world needs visionaries like you!
My first wish for you today, and the main reason I am writing to you, is that no matter what challenges life throws at you, I hope you will always remember who you are at this time in your life. Never forget that child that’s inside of you,- and never stop believing that you can make a difference in this world!
You are a one-in-a-million person, and I want you to know that I believe in you, and that I truly believe that this pandemic, or anything else that helps you find your inner strength, can be the best thing that can ever happen to you and to this world.
My generation, like every generation before it, has dropped the ball. You may be our last hope.
This time is your calling!
“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.”
(Jonathon Livingston Seagull)
An Open Letter to the Graduating
Class of 2021
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