Over the weekend we attended the college graduation of our son in Santa Barbara. Having successfully achieved his Bachelor of Sciences degree in four years (YES!) we looked forward to a celebration of his achievement. After the ceremony we headed to his house – about 500 feet from the ocean with a view that would be the envy of any world traveler – where we joined him and his five roommates in a BBQ. We met the individual families and spent some more time with his closest companions for the past 3+ years. Before the end of the night, we were witness to the famous “four square” competition that I had heard of so many times before. They don’t play it anything like I remember!
During the course of the visit, you could not help but admire the life and vigor and excitement of these young men about to leave the safety of the college campus and enter the “real world”. Broad smiles, easy laughter, hugs and high-fives, the warmth and friendship was a joy to behold. It quickly brought me back to my college days and the many good times shared. Ah nostalgia, warmly remembering moments lived and happiness shared. Physically fit, mentally sharp, energy to burn – youth definitely has its positive side!
When comparing life back then with life today, it is easy to wonder “would I want to go back to it all again”?
In his book The Force of Character and the Lasting Life, James Hillman talks about the importance of not comparing ourselves in our current state of “advancing years” to those days of our youth. It is not a reasonable comparison and striving to be younger than we are is an effort destined to end in frustration. Of course things have changed but we have become the people we are today as a result of our experiences over those years. As a younger us, we lacked the practical life moments that ultimately led to a full, complex personality and our unique individuality. Although not an easy trip, we have endured and grown and evolved. What have we learned over the years?
How have I grown?
Emotional growth – all of the ups and downs over a lifetime, the good times peppered with bad, have helped me to become a bit more centered. My emotions are more in control and extremes a bit more leveled. I am able to find happiness in moments that before led to confusion or worry. I don’t take things personally. Patience truly is a virtue. And a smile does wonders for me as well as the recipient of said expression. There is no course in college or any other classroom that can teach this. Only through experience and stubborn survival can we achieve this and having crossed that finish line I would not necessarily want to do it all again.
Financial growth – although I have moved through more than ten different companies over the course of my career I have gotten better at playing the money game. I have learned not to buy what I cannot afford. I have learned the importance of setting aside savings to prepare for whatever waits around the next corner. I have learned the unpredictability of “the market” with its ups and downs and cyclical nature and not to expect smooth sailing. In school you can study the theory behind money and finances but living it is the final coach.
Spiritual growth – the world and the people in it are amazing, beautiful, and ever-inspiring. A sunrise starts a day with awe, the ocean waves quickly calm jagged nerves, a smile from a child brings a tear to your eye, and the graduation of your youngest fills a heart with pride and hope for their future. Doing to others as you would have them do to you really makes sense! It is not all about me although Madison Avenue may say otherwise. Family is the most important thing there is (as mom has been saying forever). I have faith in others and hope for us all. I do not take one single day for granted and am thankful for each breath I take.
My son is off to his life with a solid education behind him. What adventures and experiences await him only time will tell. His youth and attitude and any support I can provide should keep him strong in adversity – I hope. It is a wonderful life in front of him. I know because I have been down a similar path.
I hope and pray for him and for all of our youth that they continue their education in the school of life and never stop learning. It would appear that like retirement, graduation is only the beginning…