My colleague, Valerie, recently share a blogpost framing her thoughts for our recent graduating class. I thought I’d add a little #kindling to that campfire:
Class of 2016: you are not the future. No, you are not the change-makers of tomorrow. Nope. Are not. Aren’t.
You are however the present. You are taking action right now. You are the today. Yes, yes, you are.
Think you need to wait for that degree, that job, that approval from another faculty? Think you need that internship? That scholarship? Think again.
You are as of 2016, as of today, the most connected group of graduates the world has ever seen. You leave high school more informed, with more access, and by extension, more potential than any class before you.
You have tools that allow you to make, build, defend, support, or galvanize others. So many people will tell you right now that you need to go forth and find meaning. You have the means to make life meaningful today.
Often we speak to graduates as though they are in a suspended void of ‘what will be.’ I think instead you need to focus on what is.
So, class of 2016, what are you going to do today?
Because today, not tomorrow, you are leaving your mark, crafting your legacy, shaping the world of those around you. Today you influence the day of those you come in contact with. Your attitude, words, and engagement with your circle of influence either communicate a mindset of integrity, kindness, and empathy, or they don’t. But you get to decide. Hopefully the past decade of your education has given you access to rehearsing the fine art of decision making. As my favorite (ever!) commencement address says:
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
(David Foster Wallace, “This is Water”)
Your attention, and the way you spend it, conserve it, or dedicate it today is the most precious, most important choice you will make day in and day out.
As a teacher, that is something I hold myself accountable for: helping you be mindful about what you give your attention to. Because your amazing gift of uber-connection in an uber-connected world cannot pay attention to it all. But I promise you, whatever your definition of success is, there will be a direct correlation between that, and the things you neglect versus the things you consider.
The phrase ‘pay attention,’ is a call to understand that you have a bank of mindfulness.
You make deposits and withdrawals from that bank a hundred times a day. And today, you will balance that budget, or maybe you won’t. You make that choice, you make it today, not tomorrow.
Sound like heaps of pressure? Remember, you have accountants to help you out: these people are your friends and family. But they can only help you if you are aware, and open minded enough to reflect on your bank of ideas, thoughts, and mental/emotional expenditures. And of course you too, are an accountant for someone else, or at least you could be if you wanted to.
You are the today. You share that opportunity and responsibility with everyone in your circle of influence today. Your choices are investments. To quote Wallace again:
Be courageous with your mind’s capital today, be brazenly aware of others, finance this hour accordingly.
Thanks to Flickr for these fab CC images: