Today my 14-year-old graduated and the school celebrated with a “Middle Memories” production composed of performances by the band, chorus, theater, and some faculty speeches.
My son, along with five other theater classmates performed a dramatic sketch where they acted out hypothetical future careers and poignantly poked fun of how life is ever changing. Their piece precociously demonstrated how even if you start on one path, doesn’t mean you’re eternally committed to it. It’s not wrong or bad to divert or change your direction. These kids seemed to recognize how life is about enriching the journey with evolving experiences.
I hope my son’s high school experience isn’t focused on a fixed point – a college acceptance or a plum job, but rather learning how to navigate life with others, while trying to extrapolate as much goodness as he can. From middle school to high school to college to jobs, to relationships, to traveling the world – physically or to the computer screen.
The ceremony wasn’t akin to a college or even high school graduation where the students were encouraged to take on the world, but rather a celebration of the passing of this transitional time and an ushering into the next educational level. I wanted to give my son an epic graduation speech, but Lin-Manuel Miranda already did it twice; once in 2015 for Wesleyan University and again this year for University of Pennsylvania.
Besides spewing 35 quotes from Hamilton: An American Musical, what kind of speech would I give him if I had his undivided attention?
I want to give my son a speech he can take with him to high school and hear echoing in his head whenever it sucks, because no matter how much pomp and circumstances surrounds his prestigious school, there will be days where he may be depressed, angry, fatigued, heartbroken, frustrated, or alone. Those are the days I hope he remembers to keep life in perspective.
- Everything passes; the world keeps spinning and nothing is worth getting so upset over because eventually it changes. In life, transition is perpetual; trying, failing, trying again, and learning is a pattern of ultimate success. Learn as much as you can from fellow humans and our planet.
- Value yourself and your desires. Remember there is a fine line between compromise and martyrdom.
- Do not fall down a rabbit hole of insecurity. Feelings of “not good enough” or comparing yourself with others is a waste of energy; it’s fidgeting. Redirect and refocus that energy.
- Persevere despite your fears and write it all down.
- Value your happiness; it is important and no one else is responsible for it. Think about how you want to spend your days and create a life in which you to do it. It will make your journey, which could be unpredictable and steep, smoother and easier if you make the choices which satiate your heart. Any day is an opportunity to shift your compass towards HAPPINESS.