Every once in a while, you hear something that resonates inside you. It makes sense, intellectually, but even more importantly, it touches you emotionally. Sometimes it’s the choice of words, sometimes it’s the message it contains, and other times, it’s a combination of both. I recently went to a graduation ceremony for my granddaughter, who finished her Bachelor’s degree at a small college in Los Angeles.
During the commencement address, the speaker said - and let me paraphrase, “If I asked each of you who are graduating today, ‘what is in your future?’, many of you would have no idea. It’s not just because the economy’s bad and there aren’t many jobs out there. It’s because you probably haven’t found your niche yet. Even though your parents and some of your friends may look askance at that fact, I’m going to tell you that it’s okay. I’ve had ten or twelve jobs since leaving college, because I didn’t know which way I wanted to go. Yet, here I am today, giving a commencement address, probably because my latest book on the second best-selling book in the New York Times Review. So, the question I want to ask you is, if college didn’t point you in any one direction, or prepare you for a job, what did it do? Perhaps I’d be more accurate in asking, what, more than anything else, should you have taken from the four years you spent here?”
He went on to say, let me give you my answer. It isn’t original, I heard it voiced by someone else, but it made so much sense to me that I want to share it with each of you. “You should have learned enough during the four years you attended college to make you interesting enough inside your heart and mind to make you a place you want to visit for the rest of your life.”
I’d truly like to have you read these words again. They aren’t exactly his, and it doesn’t matter where they originally came from, but they’re worth giving serious thought to. Think about it. How many human beings live their lives disappointed, depressed, discontent, anxious, and insecure with regard to who they are and where they see themselves going in life? Think about how many individuals you may know, including possibly yourself, who can’t spend time alone with themselves. I don’t necessarily mean with a book or TV, or a project around the house. I mean just with themselves. The fact is, they often need a diversion, an activity, or people around them in order to avoid themselves. They use others to buoy themselves up, to make them feel that they’re okay. They’re the same people who, when they’re married or in a relationship, need to control their partners, lest those persons behave in a manner that diminishes or threatens their sense of worth, or, conversely, tolerate long-term emotional or even physical abuse because of their fear of being alone. It’s safe to say that none of these individuals ever made their lives inside their bodies and heart and in their mind a place they want to visit, a place that provides them with security, peace of mind and contentment.
The sad rule of thumb is that most of us go through our lives needing to improve who and what we feel we are. We need more degrees, more money, more plastic surgery, more clothes, more accouterments to enhance the insufficient person we perceive ourselves to be. Why? Because we haven’t learned to accept ourselves emotionally as “interesting enough”, despite our positive attributes and accomplishments, or, in spite of our feelings of fear and insufficiency, perceived failures, depressed or angry feelings, and non-politically correct thoughts and statements. We intellectually know that no one is perfect, but it’s not what we know that counts. It’s the acceptance of us with our imperfections, that truly allows us to stand up as unique individuals who have come to peace with ourselves, who have learned to live with ourselves and, by virtue of that fact, don’t have to control, demean, or subjugate others or our desires in order to, figuratively speaking, purchase their presence, approval, or love.
What I’d like for each of you is that you be able to laugh at your shortcomings, failings and errors and still love yourself because of or in spite of your faults and fears. I’d have you feel that you’re worthy of the love you desire, instead of feeling you have to earn or buy it.
Lastly, in the course of living life, most of us look up to those persons we come in contact with who can speak their mind without excessive concern for what others will think or say. We’re respectful, even somewhat jealous, of individuals who can say, “This is who I am. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, the richest person in the world, or the most accomplished human being, socially, but I feel comfortable in my own shoes. Therefore, I know that the people around me accept and love who and what I am. The reason I know this is because I have no trouble exposing or sharing me with them, being vulnerable, or taking the risk of being rejected or frowned upon.
Please note: I’m not suggesting that we should or need to go out and behave outlandishly or rebelliously. Nor am I saying that we should resort to being shockingly inappropriate to gain attention. Quite the contrary. I’m saying that what we really need to do in this world is to learn to be us, to like us and to share us with others whose love we desire because we feel worthy of it. How do you go about that? Discover you. Take a trip inside you. Recognize your fears, shortcomings and insecurities as well as your accomplishments and your assets. Be able to laugh at your faux pas and see you as a place you want to visit and a person you want to occasionally spend time with and enjoy being alone with, throughout the rest of your life.
You might say, “But how do you do that pragmatically?”
I’m prone to say, “Simply do it.” But I know that’s insufficient. Therefore, I’m suggesting that you read, see movies, go to concerts, visit different places, talk with other people, enjoy what’s out in the world, accumulate knowledge, take risks, face challenges that cause you discomfort, and openly express your feelings and emotions. Feel for others and give to others. But, most importantly, ask others for what you want or need from them. By virtue of all those activities, you will be giving yourself the most valuable gift you will ever receive; pride in yourself and peace of mind with who you are, what you are and how you live your life.