Each May I get hooked-in, just cant help myself.
I find it hard not to be drawn into the whirlwind of magnificent counsel from modern day heroes with cataclysmic ideas for change, wise words from sage leaders in science, politics, art and business, and beautifully crafted stories from poets, authors and communicators that spur newness and wholeness of purpose for a new generation of modern day leaders.
Yes, each year, commencement speeches not only help wash over my fear, prevailing distrust, and periods of lack of bravery, but lifts me up to try and try again, never give up, reach high and not look back. Additionally, in the fall, I attend The Glamour Woman of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall, an event I never want to miss since i always walk away thinking of how to further strengthen my will and life's work. It's an incredibly humbling and inspiring night to say the least.
But this year, I realized, I could use a commencement of my own, a speech that put me front and center of my own life possibly celebrating 50 years on this earth and being proud of it. Not just saying it for a pat on the back, or to go against traditional fear of growing old, but really being grateful and proud to be alive all of these 50 years (with much more hopefully to come) and still have the child-like thirst for life.
I've graduated beyond the life of my mother Sally who died at the young age of 39, survived cancer and have become a thriver who's in remission who loves to swim, bike and go on adventures, a lot. To refusing to fold, asking for help and allowing my friends and family come to my support when I needed them. For being the multitasking mom joining millions of mothers on the verge of total hysteria handling way too much without an automatic spa visit scheduled each month (Massage Envy is as close to that I imagine); to not screwing up too badly and being a role model to my awesome little girl, all 5'8", age 11 of her; to having experienced a devastating divorce but then found love deeper than I could imagine -- despite and staying open and looking for more -- and last but not least, patience to believe in what will be will be and leave it at that.
But the commencement speech I felt I wanted to write now that had the most impact would be to myself as young, eager, altruistic Visual and Performing Arts graduate from Syracuse University back in 1985, with the ever evolving knowledge and seedlings of wisdom I have today and It would go something like this:
Dont rush life, soak everything in and for goodness sake, keep a journal. Chemo sucks because your memory gets cheated even though your doctor encourages you that you'll get it back! Write it all down!
Be patient with yourself, you're not meant to get "it" the first, second or even fifth time, just be sure to get whatever "it" is then, and be smart enough not repeat an "it" already given!
Be proud of your beginnings no matter how slim or flush they might have been, your family is your source and your rock in years to come, keep them close (make amends and let a lot go under the bridge ). Make it a priority to remember birthdays and anniversaries, especially your sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and cousins -- you never know whose hero you are.
Remember, everyone's story has a beginning , middle and end that defines you. Make your story count.
Trust people first, doubt second (offer forgiveness -- never forget), makes life much more interesting and besides, you have more stories and life experience in years to come to share, to help you navigate life, choosing a lover, partner, husband, wife, and career. Through all your experiences by having lived a full life, good and bad, you'll be more apt to actively listen to your children when they need you. This is invaluable to them.
Practice living in the present moment -- God how I wish I knew this earlier. I missed so many moments wishing I was somewhere else, making more, having more, feeling less, feeling more. Be happy with just what you have, not what you're missing, and offer daily lists of gratitude for those things and people in your life. This one practice can make a difference between living a truly fruitful life or one that's that half-lived. You don't need to let cancer or a grave disaster teach you this, as cancer did for me.
Last but certainly not least, stay open and dream, and don't be afraid to dream big if this is your calling. Reach out to your vision daily in silent meditation and prayer to help you stay on track when everyone says it's not possible or you're not able.
Stay true and make sure to have fun along the way. Sorry, life is hard but no one ever said you cant have fun living through it!
In closing, I'd offer my favorite quote: "Be Bold, for mighty forces will sustain (support) you" - Goethe
Here are three exceptionally inspiring excerpts from this year's commencement speeches given this past month that guided me for my speech above:
So as you leave this beautiful campus today to follow your dreams and scale great heights in whatever profession you choose, I beg you: Don't buy society's definition of success. Because it's not working for anyone. It's not working for women, it's not working for men, it's not working for polar bears, it's not working for the cicadas that are apparently about to emerge and swarm us. It's only truly working for those who make pharmaceuticals for stress, diabetes, heart disease, sleeplessness and high blood pressure.
- an excerpt from our very own HuffPost's Arianna Huffington's 2013 Smith College Commencement
- excerpt from Kerry Washington's 2013 George Washington University Commencement
When you leave here today and commence the next stage of your life, you can follow someone else's script, try to make choices that will make other people happy, avoid discomfort, do what is expected, and copy the status quo. Or you can look at all that you have accomplished today and use it as fuel to venture forth and write your own story. If you do, amazing things will take shape.
- excerpt from President Obama's 2013 Morehouse College Commencement
Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend, or your partner. Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important...