By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty
My niece and goddaughter, Mary is graduating from Notre Dame this Sunday with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry. Sadly, I can’t attend the ceremony because Notre Dame takes commencement as seriously as football. There are no extra tickets; there are no extra hotel rooms. It will be a spectacle, as it should be.
I was in college when my niece was born. I remember being delighted that my sister, Margo, and her husband, Mark, chose me to be Mary’s godmother.
I think I’ve done what I can to shape Mary’s life in a positive way, and I know she has done the same for me. In the twenty years since my college graduation (yup), I have experienced many, many things. I won’t bother to categorize them. Life experiences do not line up in neat rows, though advice can.
Christmas gifts 2015, books (tradition) on life after college!
Because I love my niece, and I am immensely proud of her accomplishment, and that of so many other young college students who worked hard to achieve their educational goals, I shall enter into the tradition of passing on wisdom as part of the rites of the commencement season.
I have a fair amount of experience in these matters. I attend two college graduations each year in my capacity as a professor here at good ol’ RMU. It is always an incredibly special day for the graduates, and I am eager to hear (and critique) the commencement address because I like the genre (see my post from last year), and I believe in education, and rituals, and getting dressed up only to have to wait patiently for something to begin.
So, as my smart, sweet, spectacular niece graduates, and begins, in earnest, her long voyage through adulthood, I’d like to offer her advice, as an honest attempt to impart something valuable.
Your Professional Life
Work is at the core of everything. Tying your shoes is work. Doing so requires preparation, learning, effort, repetition, mastery, and it is a skill that we will lose in the end, each of us reduced to Velcro shoes and meandering down lonely halls. Sunny, I know. Be grateful for what you know and use it while you can.
The work we all do enriches our lives. Do work you can be proud of, and create a positive, productive relationship with both the work you want to do and you must do.
Whatever your profession, cultivate teamwork. Collaborate, cooperate. Get and be inspired. If a colleague (or two) irritates you, consider why. Is this person’s unpleasant behavior something you can avoid? If he is petty, his choices should remind you to act with generosity. If she is unreliable, take the cue to be trustworthy. All flaws are opportunities for growth.
As far as salary: ask for more. Counter the initial offer. Establish a sense of your worth and negotiate for a higher starting pay, as all percentage increases arise from this original number.
Your Passionate Life
Bring passion to your daily life in any way possible. Engaging in activities you adore, and doing these things with love is a tremendous gift..
Do things that make you keenly aware of the unassailable life within and around you, dance, shout, paint, hike, play.
Develop passionate connections with others. Be glad of heartbreak, for those who repress or suppress their feelings live not nearly so well.
Love with abandon.
Your Daily Life
Life can become suffused with seemingly mindless routines. Certain things need to be done. I offer you what I consider to be among the best of the conclusions I have come to in life. Every time you find yourself thinking that you “have to” do something, pause and contemplate this: you “get to” as well.
Consider, we all “have to” wash the dishes.
We also “get to” wash the dishes.
We are granted the opportunity to wash dishes through a remarkable array of good fortune. In order to wash dishes, we must have food, access to water, a home in which we can cook and eat, and, often, people we love to cook for. Herein lies the great mystery of day to day contentment; embrace the magnificence of the mundane moments.
Your Inner Life
Expend considerable effort developing your spirit, which is the combination of your unique, authentic self and the inner resources necessary to survive when faced when difficulties and thrive when offered opportunities.
The surest way to build your spirit is to be as honest with yourself as possible. Address your demons; catalog your fears. They exist, so get acquainted.
The only other thing you can do is feed your inner well in the ways that make the most sense to you—often through interaction with something bigger, more extraordinary than you are. Connecting with the world, through the infinite and infinitesimal wonders of nature or the joys of other people, seems to be the only effective means of alleviating the pain that accompanies living.
Your Own Life
Do not waiver in your sacred duty to yourself. Do what you will, make mistakes. Attempting to avoid making a mistake is just another mistake to make. Life will not last. Years take wing. Do what you can each day to enjoy your one and only life: savor it.
Above all else, make life something you are proud to call your own.