“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
Yesterday both of our children graduated from college together. As I watched from high in the stands the bobbing heads beneath the mortarboard, in a sea of matching robes, fairly certain of which were probably (maybe?) my children, I realized we have been steering them through education for 18 years.
One is now an electrical engineer — funny since I probably still have safety covers on a few of our outlets from his toddler days. The other has another three years of schooling as she prepares for law school. Do I still buy new No. 2 pencils and glitter folders for that?
As always, our children have my heart, my prayers and my word. This milestone is no different. I have even more words for them. I know, you’re shocked.
My dear college graduates, you are heading even further out in the world. You will meet new people and make some of them friends. If you listen carefully enough, people will tell you exactly the type of person they are. When they do, believe them.
Everyone is not meant to be in your inner circle, and that is perfectly fine. Anyone can show up for the good times. It’s the ones who are there for you through the bad ones that are your true friends.
I hope we have raised you to be faithful, loyal, compassionate and understanding. I also want you to know that at any time, in any place, if you find yourself in the wrong relationship, setting or experience — leave. Life is too short to spend time in situations that routinely suck the happiness out of you.
You are heading into the time of life where, God willing, there will be many milestones — marriages, babies, career achievements, new homes and so much more. Show up for the ones who are your people.
Even if you feel your presence won’t be important or missed — be there. When you do so, please remember to offer to bring a dish and after it’s over to help clean up. You weren’t raised by wolves.
Speaking of marriage, it is important to remember that the perfect partner does not exist. Concentrate on someone who has the same core values and qualities you love and work daily to stay in love as you grow together.
This one is important: “No” is a complete sentence. You do not have to add detail or justify your decisions. Learning to say “no” is a valuable life skill that will keep you from overextending yourself.
Cherish your days
Use the “good stuff.” Celebrate achievements and yes — failures too. A mistake that leaves you humble is better than an achievement that leaves you arrogant.
Work to live, do not live to work. This doesn’t mean being a slacker. It means give your career 100% when you are devoting (reasonable) hours to it. Do not, however, let it fill every hour of your life.
On that note, remember that no matter how financially successful you may be, we do not buy things with money, we buy them with hours of our lives.
Things money cannot buy, but we pray we have instilled in you include morals, manners, character, common sense, kindness, class, integrity and love. Do not forget to use these tools daily.
In every facet of life, it takes zero talent to be on time, make an effort, and bring positive energy. Being positive in a negative situation isn’t naive, it is leadership. If you are blessed with a family, this is doubly true. Sometimes faking it until you make it is what keeps spirits high and children calm.
“Everyone” and “most people” are to be ignored. We taught you early and often that what “everyone” was doing, allowed to do, or did not’ have to do would have no bearing on our family. Please take with you the knowledge that this will continue to be true into adulthood.
Do not base your choices and decisions on what “everyone” is doing or what “most people” think is acceptable. Be true to yourself. “Most people” aren’t paying your bills and “everyone” won’t be there in your darker hours.
You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Have a plan — one for today, one for the near future, and one for 1, 5, 10 and 50 years from now. It won’t all come to fruition with a plan, but it definitely won’t happen without one.
Lean on one another, always. You do not outgrow your family. Lean on your respective strengths as you always have. Together you have a lawyer’s ambition, an engineer’s mindset and the can-do attitude of a true country kid.
Finally, I want you both to know that I am always and forever proud of you for who you are, not what you do.
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