Last week my niece Mary graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder. In the coming weeks my goddaughter Clare graduates from Georgetown and, Kristin, from USC.
Julie Andrews spoke at Mary’s graduation and she was, well, Julie Andrews — warm, funny, smart, and compassionate. Later that day, I sat in my hotel room trying to write something just as inspirational to Mary, but words failed me. I’ve since tried writing to Clare and Kristin but continue to fumble.
Graduations are a time for wishing, hugging, and drinking all to excessive degrees! They’re a time for attempting to say witty and profound things that sound earnest, but inevitably are clichéd. They’re a time for giving thanks for the past while holding our collective breath as we hope for each graduate a dazzling future. Recognizing all this, I’d like to use this column as an open letter to Mary, Clare, and Kristin….
My favorite book in high school was David Copperfield whose very first sentence reads: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
That is my wish for you, Mary, Clare, and Kristin — that you each become the hero of your own life.
I’ve worked to become the hero of my life and, knowing the parents who raised you, I think each of them, consciously and unconsciously, has striven mightily to become the hero of her or his own life.
How do you become that hero? One of my college mentors, Anais Nin, wrote: “Never crystallize. Remain open to change, renewal, adventure, experiment.”
With varying intensity and generosity those words have been my guiding mantra for four decades. As I’ve struggled to not crystallize, as I’ve risked becoming that hero, I’ll admit that I’ve often confused myself as I’ve challenged myself! I’ve dared myself and sabotaged myself. I’ve met good, wonderful, bright, creative people — strangers who became my friends, some for a little while and some for the long haul. I’ve met people who baffled me, amazed me, challenged me, taught me, and enlightened me. People who held me up with kindness and wisdom. And there were some whose words and actions or silence and density confused and angered me.
And in the refusing to crystallize, which is the only real heroic adventure, I’ve often failed stupidly and miserably, hurting people no one should hurt. But, by daylight and in dark, I’ve been nourished and fattened with tender, whacky stories that have cheered, confused, and astonished me. Stories that constantly have not allowed me to forget or deny that life is good and worthy of my best.
Mary, Clare, Kristin, today I hug and toast you, and forever quietly cheer you on as you each continue to become the hero of your own life!
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