The weekend after this column comes out, June 15 and 16, will find people walking across the stage—people I care for and have grown accustomed to seeing, who I might never be in the same room with again. In a year, I, too, will likely untie the band of cloth keeping my wings in place and flap up a great wind to carry me onto the next stage of my life. I don’t really feel in the right state of mind to draft an appreciatively sappy note at the moment. But I would still like to offer the best gift I think I can give. What makes this so difficult is that “think” is the key word here. See, as far as I’m aware, those graduating Cal Poly this weekend have much more of their life, and the world, figured out than I have. True, that may be a generalization, but I’m in the position of being one who sees change ahead in the distance, but not close enough to touch. In one year, in what has a chance of being the last of these columns I ever write myself (and boy isn’t that a startling realization), I will have a very different outlook on my situation, partially because of how tangible it will be then, and partially because sometimes—not always, but sometimes—a heck of a lot happens in one year.
You’ve all had four. Maybe five. Maybe six or seven. For the most part, it’s been away from home. I haven’t really had that experience, not to that extent at least. So whatever preaching I can offer could be among the least helpful advice you’ll ever receive. Well, it happens. Here goes.
I spent more than a week in Germany once, and found myself realizing more about America as a result. It occurred to me that Americans are pressured to always be on the go. Always taking up new projects, driving to new places, never ever idling. Even when we vacation, or hell, procrastinate, we are GOING and DOING rather than being a body at rest. There’s not enough time to breathe in our lives, and it just grows worse with age. Even now, there are plenty of events, which, if personified, would be yapping at my ear for a spot in this column—not because this column is prestigious, but because they want you to go and do things. Sorry, but that’s exactly what you’re going to have to do. So here’s my gift: a simple tip.
Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. You’ve made it this far. In a few moments, you’ll step out to applause and then leave this town, possibly for good. Some locals probably complained that you were here. Too bad for them. You’ve made it. For some of you, it can be the first time that someone in your immediate family received a diploma, but for others, I’d go so far as to say for many, it’s often expected from birth. The piece of paper you’re gonna be framing is something demanded by so many future employers, and possibly your family members. It can seem like that’s the only way you can succeed in life, that you have to have one. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s true—entirely up to you, as long as you promise me that, even if it’s something that’s supposed to be mundane, you absolutely refuse to treat it that way. No matter what, it’s an accomplishment. Now breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. That’s your cue. You’re on.
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