Driving home from jiu jitsu this week, Little Son told me he had finally decided what he wanted to do for a living. I know, I know, it seems soon. After all, he’s only 8. But he has actually been concerned with his future self for quite some time.
My advice to him is always the same – take your time. There is no hurry. Shoot, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up yet, and I’m 43. Ugh. 44.
I held my breath. Did he want to be a mixed martial arts fighter? A game designer? Maybe he would leverage his looks and geekdom and be the next rich YouTube sensation! Perhaps Momma wants to be retired when she grows up! “Sweet boy, you are so smart and good-looking. You can be anything you want to be!”
“I want to work at Barnes and Noble. They don’t even have to pay me money, they could just give me books!”
Oh how my boy loves to read, I am so very proud of him! But I don’t think lifelong, unpaid bookstore clerk is what his dad has in mind for him. He would never leave home for one thing. Talk about failure to launch. But it would suit me just fine. We could talk about all of our favorite books, and I could make him cocoa every morning before he rode his bike to work.
I know this weekend, many parents watched their babies cross the graduation stage. Did similar thoughts race through their minds? Did they worry about the next steps? Secretly hope their children would never leave home? Did they wonder if they had done everything in the world to ensure their baby’s success?
Sweet mommas and daddies, my heart is with you. It is so beautifully hard to watch a child grow up.
I thought carefully about what I needed to say to my firstborn. Like his father, he is a deep thinker, and will chew on something for weeks. I have had to learn to curb my tendency to be flippant.
“I love that you love to read, Son. I am so very proud of you. Words have the ability to change the world! I think the most important thing you can do when you are a grown-up is to find something you love to do.”
And that got me thinking about what I would say if he were graduating from high school or college? What would I say if I were giving a commencement address? What wisdom could I share with people about to step out into the world?
I think my advice would be something like this:
The truth is, not everyone finds a job or career that makes them happy or satisfies their souls. Bills have to be paid, and God made us to work and to contribute. But it is my hope you will find that passion somewhere, and incorporate it into live somehow. That’s how we “fill our cups” so to speak, so that we have the energy to tackle the every day.
Find your tribe, the people that get you. They may not be just like you or have the same background you have, but if they lift you up and make you feel good, and you do the same for them, well, keep them close.
Don’t give it all away for free. Not your time, your talent or your love. Some people and situations are just not right for you. When it is a struggle, all the time, that’s a sign. When you feel bad about yourself after a date or a job, when someone asks you to participate in something that goes against everything you know is right, you have permission to back out. You have the right to walk away.
Be picky about the person you commit to. Find a partner that makes you laugh. Find a partner that always has your back, even when you’re wrong. Find someone that you love so much you want to be the best version of yourself you can be. That person will love you even at your worst. And that person is the one that loves you as much as you love them.
Get your passport. Choose fun, choose adventure, take risks. Life is short, even though it will not feel like that to you today, or tomorrow or even next year. Accumulate memories and skills and stories, not stuff. Stuff weighs you down. You have to clean it and store it and insure it. Stuff is a lot less fun than a girls trip to Mexico.
Listen to Dave Ramsey. If you manage your money, you will have freedom. Imagine being able to afford a car repair at Christmas and still being able to pay for Christmas. Without help from Mom and Dad.
Be like my son. Read books. All kinds of books. Read as much as you can now, because once you have children of your own, careers and responsibilities, you will never get to read again. You will be too tired or too busy. Trust me. I haven’t gotten to read a book since 2008.
And finally, call your parents. Send them pictures. Forgive them for being human, they tried their best. You are so loved, and we can’t wait to see what your future holds. Have the courage to fly. Congratulations to the students and parents of the Class of 2017. You did it!