Life begins here
April in Glenwood
As college graduates head out into the world, many commencement speeches by famous honorary degree holders are going viral.
Too bad YouTube wasn’t around for mine so I could remember it.
I know I would have loved for Peyton Manning to speak at my ceremony at Purdue. But in 1994, he would have been only 18. Something tells me Peyton probably would have pulled it off with wit and class, even right out of high school. Last month, the Denver Broncos’ quarterback addressed the University of Virginia’s Class of 2014. He told some jokes. He threw a couple of passes with students. Afterward he spoke of life after graduation and the challenges of learning how to stand out and fit in at the same time in the business world. He suggested taking a look inward, something I do every week in this column, while taking leaps.
“Either way, you’ll land in a better place if you’re honest with yourself,” he said. “Do a self-check of your aspirations. Challenge your motivations and refuse to wallow. Don’t wallow in your lack of thrilling choices.”
I wholeheartedly agree, and only because I speak from experience. I spent all of my 20s doing what I thought was the right thing — graduating college in four years, getting married, building a house — but there was something missing. I knew it.
And I ignored it.
I spent my early 30s wallowing in those decisions — of do what I thought was right but were not necessarily ideal for me. I knew I had missed out on taking chances of becoming a writer in New York or L.A. In my mid-20s, I even received a job offer to be a magazine editor in Boston from a publisher who hadn’t even met me. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. She said she felt like fate had brought us together. I really wanted the job but turned it down, mostly based on the fear that accepting it would be a deal-breaker in my marriage. I had also never lived outside of Indiana. I didn’t know if I ever could.
Five years later, I proved myself wrong and moved to Colorado.
I wish I could say I haven’t spent many hours wondering how life would be different if I had taken more chances. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. The key is to not wallow in what has happened in the past because we can never change it. It’s all about accepting the idea that the past is what makes us who we are in the present.
And in the future.
Not until my mid-30s did I realize my past was well behind me. That’s about the time I decided to tell jokes about it. The more self-deprecating, the better. It’s all a process. Of course I wish it hadn’t taken me so long. Mid-life, or what I hope is almost mid-life, can do that to a person. I daydream often of being young and pursuing comedy writing in Hollywood.
The catch is not wallowing in regret and remembering that it still can happen.
That’s one of life’s quirks, though. We all have our moments of realization and discover our paths at different times. Some have it when they graduate high school or college. Those are the lucky ones. Since I’m more of a dreamer, it took experience to breed self-actualization.
Or something like that.
Accepting that I couldn’t do anything to change what happened in my past and knowing that I can affect what is to come has been my most thrilling choice of all. By taking that route, I have way more to gain than lose.
I’d rather risk failing than not trying at all.
This is the message making its rounds on social media this week from Jim Carrey as he gave his commencement speech to Maharishi University of Management’s class of 2014. He was honored for his work as a comedian, actor, artist, author and philanthropist — all dream jobs of mine that I haven’t yet given up on.
Even at near-middle age.
“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much,” said Carrey, in his speech. “So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. … What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it.”
Words of advice to graduates never sounded so honest.
— April E. Clark hopes to someday give a commencement speech at her alma mater. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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