You know who you are, roaming the halls with caps and gowns in ripped-open plastic, interrupting classes I’m teaching the next two weeks.
“I’m not sure how you get out half a month earlier than everyone else,” I tell you while you’re walking around the school. It’s a mystery of life I neither condone nor understand.
You’re smiling, returning from picnics and parks while I review freshmen for finals. They grumble–they’re sitting. They want to be going to picnics and parks, too. Sometimes I see one of you frowning. You’re not crossing the stage. We stop and have a meaningful moment–this is a tough time for you. Your friends are all glowing. I tell you this doesn’t mean you won’t succeed. Push through! Be great!
Every once in a while I see your teachers in the hall, freed from the classroom since you’ve got one foot on the stage. One of them should bring me a coffee or lunch.
I remember when you arrived. When you were the one stuck in the classroom watching everyone celebrate. Four (or five!) years flew. I’m getting old. “I could die at any moment, get your work done NOW!” I’ve said that to you for years. The calendar shows it’s closer to being true.
But now, you owe me nothing–no work left to give, only a stage to conquer, then you’re free to enjoy to the magic of life.
I’ve noticed something–as the day drew near, more and more of you said, “Now what?” You’ve stolen my entrepreneurship books, you’ve asked the larger questions, we’ve talked philosophy, you’ve wondered about the stuff that’s real in life. You’ve had that “holy shit” moment as you realized you’ll be going out into a world that hands you nothing. We’ve handed you that world. And now, you’ll have to dig through the manure and build your own empire.
“Why don’t they teach us this?” you’ve asked in horror. I’ve laughed.
“I did,” I said. “You weren’t ready to listen.” You’re ready now. Life’s come knocking. Or smacking, as it were…
But… I wonder…
Why have you waited to start life? I told you to start–for real–the moment you entered my door.
Why does everyone imagine a cap and gown gives you the power to rule the universe, when what gives you the power to be amazing is putting in a little effort each and every day. Before you know it, there you are. The sooner you start, the sooner it dawns on you that you’ve been great all along. Any day can be the day you commit to becoming what you should be and what you already are, magic.
Still, I’m proud of you. This is a big moment.
Some of you will go on to college and training. You’ll spend another few years waiting for your programs to end so you can be great.
Then maybe you’ll go on to jobs where you’ll wait for things to work out, to be fun, engaging, profitable, not realizing a little extra daily effort would’ve built you the companies whose cubicles you now grace, if you started imagining it years ago.
You might wait for the right person to come along at the right time.
You’ll wait to start a family–till you’re settled down and the meaning of life appears. There’s a lot of waiting to be had in life, you’ll think.
I’ve learned the meaning of life never appears. The perfect time is an illusion.
Graduation day does not begin life. Today begins life. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty, or even fifteen sitting at my desks for another two weeks, life begins now.
Graduation doesn’t begin life. You do. Do it. Today.