Here we are in the middle of graduation season! As you watch these young men and women embark on the next chapter of their lives, you have the opportunity to utilize the same symbolism for yourself. While it may have been years since you’ve been in a cap and gown, education never stops and this time of year is a reminder to look back on what has been accomplished while taking the necessary steps to move forward.
A relationship is certainly an education. One with a series of tests, extensive research, the roles of teacher and student, unexpected courses in math, science, biology, chemistry, history, speech, writing, sex ed and, hopefully, a bit of recess! You may not be able to march across a stage to receive a diploma and the applause of an audience acknowledging the accomplishments of relationships, but you are still able to incorporate some of the key elements of graduation into your personal growth.
We are a world built on momentum that is constantly reaching forward. We rarely take the time to examine the past and the amazing things we have accomplished so far. Take some time to look at the life you have created for yourself. Really see it. Don’t focus on the things that you want to change but allow yourself instead to see what you have done that is incredible. Think about your life’s story and imagine that you are hearing it as if it belongs to someone else. What parts of the story excite you, thrill you, astonish you with their bravery, leave you in awe of our hero? Well, the hero of this story is you. Embrace that.
While reflecting, extend gratitude to those that have given your life its color. Maybe this will inspire you to reach out to an old friend. Maybe you will do something unexpected and kind for a neighbor or colleague. Maybe you will sit down with your partner, take their hands and express your gratitude for all the gifts they have brought into your life. Or maybe you will just sit with their image in your mind and love in your heart. Genuine gratitude is an incredible thing to give to another person but it is equally important to give it to ourselves. Take a moment to look in the mirror and see yourself fully and without apology. The person you see is the single most important relationship in your life. Say “thank you.”
One of the single hardest things in life to do is to forgive. It is also one of the single most important things you can do for your own well-being. Forgiveness does not let those that have hurt us off the hook as much as it lets us off our own hook. As Lewis B. Smedes says, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” And perhaps even more challenging than trying to forgive another is making the choice to forgive yourself. Yes, you have made mistakes. That is one of the prices of living. But that is also one of life’s gifts because our mistakes give us character, give us humility, and they give us humor. You are not your mistakes, you are how you let your errors define you. Without mistakes there can be no forgiveness and without forgiveness there can be no love!
This is the time to think about what you would like to do next. How do you want to live your life and how do you want your relationships to evolve? A graduating senior must choose whether to continue their education, join the work force, take a sabbatical, settle down or party on. As a student of life, what would you next like to do or learn? Make some new goals. Sure, you can make them epic “bucket list” goals like visit Bora Bora, learn to speak Mandarin, or compete in a triathlon. But find some simple goals as well. Get out of bed 30 minutes earlier. Put down the TV remote and read a book. Learn about one of your partner’s hobbies and surprise them with a gift that shows you support their own goals.
One of the great gifts to give a graduating senior of any age is the Dr. Seuss classic “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” It’s a sweet and whimsical tale filled with reminders of what a great adventure living can be. So as you journey on into the next chapter of your life, I give this great quote from the book, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”