Liz’s Advice to The Class of 2012: LIVE INSPIRED!

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It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away–Beautiful Day–U2

I’ve had the pleasure of watching both my son and my daughter graduate from high school.  So last night,at dinner, I asked them, my husband, and six year old son a profound question. With the exception of my youngest, who just finished kindergarten, the rest of us whether college educated or self-taught have certainly been at least a part time student at The School of Hard Knocks, a.k.a.  The Real World.    So I asked them this question, with a disclaimer that there would be a “no wrong answer” response from me.  I asked:

       Once you graduate, what is the key to happiness, or living a good life?

I already had a mental outline prepared with six things I wanted to elaborate on, but let’s start with my family’s advice first:

My husband, father of three, said, “Get a boat.” I asked “What’s the best part of having a boat?”  He replied, “All of it.  Working on it.  Driving it.  Casting your reel off of it.  Skiing behind it.  If it’s a boat; it’s all good”

My oldest son, 24, said, “Sleeping!”  “Elaborate, please!” I replied.   In fewer than 25 words, he somehow conveyed to me, that when you are sleeping, you aren’t stressing, working, or in any number of ways, participating in life’s more difficult moments.  Ah, at such a tender age, he has found the antidote that somewhat cures the stresses of full time work.

My confident and ambitious daughter in college said, “Take responsibility for your life!”    She is strong-willed, independent, and needed no follow up questions from me.

My six year old, yelled out “Cake!!  Yummy, yummy cake!  And lots of it!” as he licked his lips!   He said this because my daughter had just baked a birthday cake for a friend, and he successfully convinced her to let him tag along and enjoy some delicious red velvet cake with her and her friend.  I love this age; he lives totally in the now.  That’s exactly where he found his answer.

I glanced out the door to my three cats who were basking in the setting sun’s light.  Their posture alone conveyed the modus operandi they exist out of:   Don’t worry; be happy!  Bask in the sun’s light as often as possible!

In less than 60 seconds, my family already nailed the points I already had planned to tell you.  I think it’s because these are universal truths.   In case you forget the wisdom from your baccalaureate address, by all means print this, and refer to as needed!

1.      Don’t Miss Your Boat!  Find Something You Love and Work Towards it Every   Day 

Find the “boat” of your dreams and work towards it.  It won’t be easy; it requires a ton of work to earn it or build it yourself.  Your dreams and goals are the same way.  It takes years to hone your craft, or master your skills.  Whether you go to college or not, you are responsible for your learning!    But once you earn or build your dreamboat, don’t be afraid to occasionally  step out of it.  You’re going to have to leave your comfort zone, to truly go where you want to go in life.    There will be storms in life, but you can’t avoid navigating the seas, when there are big fish to catch and destinations to reach.  Sail on!

2.   There’s No Such Thing As “You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks”

If you can type reasonably well, are adept at using Google and/or Facebook, then you are already equipped in the art of self-education.  Always keep learning; but know how  to learn independently.  Respect your teachers, but don’t assume you can’t learn what they know without them.  You can.  Supplement your education by reading everything and finding ways to partake in your passions.  You can waste excess hours on social networking sites, or you use your computer as a tool to supplement your education, and the social network as a way to make connections that will increase your opportunities to connect to your passions.  Make it a point to learn something new every day!  Also, when you hear something as fact, don’t assume that it is, especially in the media.  Research it yourself, and find out if it’s true.

3.   Take Responsibility for Your Life.

Don’t blame others, ever, for your choices.  Don’t blame others for their success and your perceived lack of it.  Make your own luck and create your own destiny in such a way, that you’ll inspire others.  Three parts to this are key:

A. Do not let others define you.  When you get to the point, you are not a “people-pleaser”  and don’t require others to hold you in high regard, but can look squarely in the mirror and see a person of integrity, who is trying their hardest, and continues to take the hard steps to reach your goals, you will be successful.  You define your success, not others.  This also means whether you’re a NASA engineer, a stay at home parent,  an artist, or a CEO on Wall Street, you get to pick what success means to you!

B.  Refuse victimhood.    Life is not fair, but you should have mastered that around kindergarten.  Bullies exist.  There’s always someone who has more.  Somebody gets to the top because they had a leg up.  So what?!   You’re taking the honorable route and anything worth having takes time.  But always, refuse to be a victim.  You have the capacity to learn and the capacity to rise above, because that is an internal character trait, not an outward circumstance beyond your control, such as where you come from, or what your financial, educational, or any other status is currently.

C. Make good choices.  Don’t drink and drive, but think and thrive.  As an adult, you are pretty much free to do what you want, legally or even illegally, but only you can determine if the consequences are worth it.  Take risks in the things that will increase your success, not immature or dangerous choices that will diminish it or harm others.

4. Rest! 

With all the learning you’re going to be pouring into that noggin, it’s important to find time to play, relax, and of course rest.  It’s hard in a 24/7 driven world, but find ways to get the rest your body requires.  Everybody is different, but know your optimal number of hours of rest needed and find a way to get it.   Spice up your rest life, and get a hammock!   There’s nothing like a good view, before shutting one’s eyes!

5.  Get plenty of SON light!

Depend not only on yourself.  Seek help from others.  Also, call upon the higher power and the higher law of Grace, given freely by Jesus Christ, to power you not only on difficult days, but on the good ones as well.  Which brings me to my young son’s summary of all the above wisdom:

 6.  Savor sweetness!

Eat dessert first sometimes and forget about the calorie count!    Taste all the good things in life, not just food, but everywhere you look.  Look at life, as though you owned the world’s most expensive camera.  WOW!  What beauty, what amazing grandeur God has put before you; truly a panoramic banquet table awaits you each day.  Allow the things that are good to frame your daily perspective.  Refuse negativity as influence and refuse to be a negative person.  You’ll complain less, if you learn to get over things quickly and move on.

Equally important, where there is injustice, oppression, suffering, hunger, loneliness, sadness, isolation, imprisonment, cruelty, and all the unfair things of this world, will you personally commit to finding a role to play in some of the solution?  Never underestimate the power of one.  You have no idea how big your influence may play a role in those you come in contact with, and when you meet someone who falls in one of the above mentioned categories, will you choose to be involved and lend a helping hand, yourself or an encouraging word, a salve of sweetness?  Value and incorporate kindness, goodness, honesty, and sweetness into your character.

Conclusion:

You could read these sentences and view them in two possible ways:  A whole bunch of clichés, or a whole bunch of truths.  Well, sometimes clichés are true.   Anybody can say it, but do you have what it takes to live it?  I think you do.  You wouldn’t have read it to the end, if you didn’t think you have what it takes.  Lastly, know there will days when you will blow it or feel like a failure in some regard.  Learn from it, attempt to repair it if necessary, and by all means, move on!  Don’t let emotions or feelings dictate your reality, let your positivity, passions, and good choices move you forward from your mistakes.

Whether military service, college, tech school, volunteer service or employment is your next step in life, go forward with boldness, encouragement, and belief in yourself, that you are already more than capable.  Whatever your path, commit to living your life out loud, laughing often, learning always, lying never, and loving deeply.  Do these things and you will truly live.  When you live intentionally, you will find your success and happiness.   Choose to be happy.  Choose to exceed your definition of success.  Choose life, always!

Congratulations Class of 2012!!

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Bye Bye Baby Girl

Dance Photo: Bob Stuart Photography
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Partial Lyrics – Daughters – John Mayer

Who doesn’t get a lump in their throat when they look at their baby girl and see the incredible young lady you knew they would be.  We look in the mirror at ourselves and often think Oh my; what happened? But our daughters—well, that’s different.  Sometimes we have these moments that just seem to freeze time.   As we do, we  observe with amazement and are  shell shocked because this realization hits us so hard; where did all the time go?

I’ll tell you where it went.  You bring the little apple of your eye home and your days get consumed with nursing, stimulating, putting down, comforting, and watching every first in amazement:  First  smile, first tooth, first step, first words.  You have more fun dressing your baby girl than you ever did playing dolls.    I was born to do this, you think.  My happiness is complete now.

You don’t realize it; it’s gradual, but you leave the cocoon of infancy quicker than you thought.  Now your packing diaper bags with goldfish crackers snapped in plastic, a few wedges of apple for good measure, sealing  sippy cups, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and Barney tapes (my baby missed the IPOD and even CD generation).   You’re meeting the other moms you’re friends with for play dates at the park, or Gymboree class, gymnastics lessons, or trips to the library or museums. You’re in full blown motherhood!  You’re concerned about every morsel they ingest, every habit they have and every milestone they either exceeded or lag behind.  You put character band aids on every boo boo and you kiss the tears until they vanish.

All former identification with career status only has now taken a back seat, most likely, to motherhood, regardless of hours worked outside the home.   Sometimes you may go to work because you desperately need a break, or perhaps you have to work, but it kills you.   Either way, you’re desperate  to hurry  home,  afraid of what you might be missing.  The ache of not being with her catches you off guard.  You always thought you could do both easily.   You learn having it all, is not just an illusion, it’s clearly obvious that you don’t even harbor that desire now.  Less becomes more.

As you learn to make peace with work and motherhood, time ticks on.  Soon you’re packing back packs, lunch boxes, and learning how to French braid hair, and sanitize freshly pierced ears.  Baby girl plays with you;  she plays with her dolls or Build-A-Bears, or with friends.  You don’t even feel it, this sudden pull as she becomes  the pretend role of mommy, Queen, finger painter Picasso,  clown, gymnast, dancer, singer, artist, pot-holder weaver, tye-dyer extraordinaire,  and a million other choices. Yes, she’s leaving you, alright.

You referee sibling fights and arguments amongst friends and you too, change hats more frequently than you once changed diapers.  One minute you’re craft mom, the next minute you’re nurse, the next you’re mentor mom, homework mom, PTA mom, and chauffeur mom.  Yes, before elementary school is finished, you will start logging miles that would make a truck driver say, “Whoa momma….slow down.”     But you keep going, because you know dance lessons, help with homework, music lessons, summer camps, play dates, museum trips, are all what will make your daughter super amazing someday.  Or at least you delude yourself, if you can just keep on striving towards that ultimate Queen’s Crown of PERFECT MOM, all will be well!

Time doesn’t pardon you or slow down, just because you can’t seem to get it all done in a day.  More than half her childhood has passed already.  Middle school is a complete revolving door of hormones, physical changes, and a mental maturity that arrives without warning.   Stringy uncombed hair is suddenly combed.  Make up is applied.  Bras go on first.   “That time” arrives and leave you both a little sad.   Even little girl is more a memory now.  Hints of a woman are lurking in your subconscious, but you chase it away.

High school arrives.  Day after endless day of activities ensue.  First car, first date, first job, first prom, first boyfriend all take place.   The cycle of firsts repeats.    My daughter is a dancer.  EVERY night of her entire high school life was spent at a studio.   Dinner with family was rare, but the dashboard dining table was common.   Rebelling or excelling is common during these years.   You learn to deal with the stress of either, or both sometimes.  Your daughter’s friends sometimes become your friends, or sometimes become the thorn in your side.  But deep down you love all of them; especially the thorny ones.

Since you often feel like you are feeding and mothering a clan, you admit that maybe Hillary knew a thing or two when she said, “it takes a Village to raise a child”.  You are Village Mama trying your level best to supervise, teach, befriend, and intervene when necessary.  Your former status as CEO on the domestic frontier has been diminished to that of an adviser.  Unlike your day job, you were not informed of your demotion.

Suddenly you went from  turning baby girl on her back in the crib, to this moment where  you’re watching  young lady turn her tassel.   In our case, we wrapped childhood up with several amazing final senior recitals, a graduation party, and tied a pretty bow on her life with a big trip to NYC,  a final nod to the amazing world of competitive dance.

Then–.BOOM!  It happens.  This is the day she leaves you!  Bags are packed,  room is cleaned out, pictures are taken, hugs are exchanged, and you go back home with one less.  You tell yourself not to cry.   But of course, you do.   You’re happy for her.  But you’re sad for you.  You knew that day they placed her in your arms this day would come; you just tried to pretend it wouldn’t.

We say goodbye and let this beautiful woman God crafted all those years ago inside of you into the big wide world.

You nurtured her, taught her, laughed with her, traveled with her, joked with her, ate with her, made things with her, drew with her and sometime when she wasn’t looking tried to just draw her.  Above all, you just loved her.  You loved her so much and so hard, you realized when she left, you weren’t sure what was left inside of you.

If she’s your first, you know the first time in every big step is the hardest and you take comfort in the children who still keep you busy.   If she’s you’re last, or your only one, you feel pain the most acutely, because now time demands of you to answer the question who am I now and what in the world am I going to do.

But like her, you will find the answers to these questions in time.  Take time to listen to your heart; what is stirring in your soul just for you?   And just like baby girl, you will step out bravely into the new world and find the answer.  Trust God.  Reach out.  Go forward.   And find your life in a new way.

When I saw her first in a pram they pushed her by
Oh my, my how you’ve grown
Well it’s been, it’s been…a little while

In a Little While…U2