Friday, June 13, 2008

Not That Anyone Asked Me

It's graduation season. That time of year when graduates are told to get out there and make something of themselves. Conquer the world! And then make it a better place!

Not that anyone has asked, but if they did, here's the advice I'd like to give to the new graduates.

You'll be told to get out there and Live Your Dreams. And right now, that seems so easy and possible. You are eager and full of life. As has been every generation of graduate before you.

But something happens along the way and one by one dreams fall by the wayside and you find yourself twenty, thirty, forty years from now not quite where you had intended to be, living a...

Well, an OK life. A really pretty good life, maybe, but not really a GREAT life. Not the best life you could ever imagine.

So how do you keep your dreams from falling to dust? What causes them to wither and die?

I believe it's fear. Fear of danger, fear of risk and, probably the biggest, most deadly fear of all: fear of looking foolish.

Eleanor Roosevelt advised: Every day, do something that scares you. And I believe that is great advice. It's advice I follow and it has served me well.

If I can add to it, I would say: And get out there and make a total ass of yourself, oh, at least once a week.

Because I believe that that's what keeps us from taking chances, from taking the kinds of chances that will give life to our dreams.

We don't want to look foolish.

So we don't try to get to know the person who could very well be the partner of our dreams.

So we don't apply for that great job that we're not sure we'll get.

So we don't ever travel in countries where we don't know the language or the customs.

And twenty or thirty or forty years later, we end up, never feeling foolish, with a life that's nailed down at every corner. And boring as hell.

Don't! Don't live this way! Don't let your dreams wither and die.

Get comfortable with embarrassment, with feeling foolish, with looking like an idiot.

Sign up for Tai Chi, or yoga, or anything that involves moving your body in unaccustomed ways while in a group. There's a huge potential for embarrassment.

Take up clogging (and then brag about it).

Take up hobbies that will cause your friends, and possibly yourself, to have to shift their view of who you are.

Learn not to care so much what other people think of you.

Ask that person out. Try for the job that's maybe beyond you. Go on that trip.

Our greatest lessons are learned when our faces are burning and we're looking for the nearest hole to crawl into.

Just make sure that the lesson you learn is something other than: I'm done taking chances.


Brilliant Asylum said...

Printing this post out and saving it. Thanks for the pep talk!

Barb McMahon said...

You are so welcome! Glad you liked it!

Jennifer F. said...

I just happened to click through your comment at Finslippy (it stood out since we both referred to alcohol as a cure for writer's block in the first sentence of our advice), and I'm so glad to have found your blog. I love your honesty and wit. I am also unemployable (or, as I say when I am trying unsuccessfully to impress people, I am "entrepreneur").

Anyway, love this post. Great advice. I'll definitely be back.

Barb McMahon said...

I'm surprised more people didn't offer that one as a solution.

Thanks for your kind words!