My desk piles up this time of year with graduation announcements from my patients, and I cherish every one of them. I look at them often, thinking of these precious young people and what a privilege it has been for me to care for them during their childhood.
This graduation season means even more to me because one of the high school seniors walking across the stage in her cap and gown is my own baby, Liesl, who is no longer a baby but an incredible young woman who is ready to start a new chapter of her life.
There are some things I want to impart to her and all the other wonderful graduates as they prepare for their future. Much of what I have learned in life didn’t come from a book, it came from forging ahead, making plans and dreams and experiencing life head-on.
Live passionately. While it may be comfortable watching from the sidelines, I encourage you to jump into life with both feet, try new things and fight for the ideas and the people you care about. Study hard, work hard, friend hard, and love hard. Other people will notice and appreciate your zest for life, and they will join you. Living in the company of other passionate people makes life worthwhile and exciting.
Be ready to listen and learn new things. Life isn’t always what you expect. Ideas and beliefs can change through our experiences. Be open to other people, concepts and new ways of thinking. And remember, mistakes often teach you more than your successes, if you are willing to learn from them.
Build a village of positive people. Seek out friends and relationships that make you happy—both are good for your social, mental and physical health. Don’t waste time on drama and negativity.
Take care of yourself. Many kids who head off on their own for the first time forget the basics. Aim to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, drive responsibly (never drink and drive) and engage in an activity that you can do on a regular basis to relieve stress. Think of yourself like an expensive race car—your body needs to be carefully maintained to operate well.
Make eye contact, smile and offer a firm handshake. Studies show that people form their first impression of you within 30 seconds, and they use those three things to form that opinion.
Be kind—karma is real. If you put goodness out into the universe through everything you say and do, it will come back to you—especially when you need it most. The people who I see making it in life aren’t always the smartest, richest or most beautiful; they are the people who are kind, who build others up and who attract admiration, simply by being thoughtful and caring.
Speak and live truthfully and bravely. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from believing in yourself, listening and following your own inner voice, and speaking and standing by your truth.
Know your strength and where to find support. Liesl, my dearest, when life goes sideways and things unexpectedly shatter, don’t despair. Trust that you have the grit to do hard things and know that your mom is always right here, ready to give you a hug, help you pick yourself up, gather the pieces and put them back together.
To all of this year’s graduates, I wish you abundant joy and blessings in your life ahead. And to all of you parents of graduates—I wish you a sense of gratitude and joy to balance the emotions that come with watching your babies take flight. Someone hand me a hanky—I’m feeling a good cry coming on.