As graduation season nears, I can’t help but think of advice I would offer to a younger version of me. This letter below is specified to the 25-year-old me who attained her doctorate, fourteen years ago.
Today marks the pinnacle of your formal educational journey, but know that there will be many tomorrows where awakening will continue to be unveiled. I wished someone would have offered me these words of advice then. Here’s is what I know now.
Lesson 1: You will discover that your real education begins after graduation. Wisdom involves unlearning and questioning all that you came to know from your family, school, and society. Understand it’s okay to not know, as the poet Rilke encourages us to “live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Lesson 2: Sometimes doing nothing is more productive than all the to dos on your list. As an overachiever, you have filled your life with degrees. After this degree know you will, attain more certificates, continuing education credits, and ongoing workshops. But there is beauty in slowing down and simply feeling the sun on your skin. Cherish the days that are unplanned and filled with the beauty of nature. They will restore you for the rest of your weeks.
Lesson 3: When you attain everything you thought you wanted, you begin to realize what is really lacking in your life. With hard work, the American dream is within your reach. This includes your degree you receive today, the three car garage house, a six figure income, a steady relationship, car, world trips, and all the stuff you have filled your house with. One thing you realize your life is missing is having a spiritual practice. It is through feeling this emptiness, that your search for spiritual practice begins.
Lesson 4: Nothing lasts, learn to not get attached. Relationships end, family members die, jobs disappear, the cities you will live in shift, your dreams change. As the adage states, “change is the only constant.” I know you are sentimental. Practice the art of loosening your grip on others, while simultaneously holding the moment with awe and appreciation.
Lesson 5: Endings are not finalities, but simply mark the periods of time when your perspectives begin to shift. With days like today, the attainment of your highest educational degree, you may feel this is the end of your path to becoming a psychologist. It simply is the end of this formal education time period. You should not stop growing, and view endings as an abrupt period at the end of a sentence. More will be revealed, if you glance to see what lies just beyond this sentence.
Lesson 6: Remain curious and interested with your life. This could be with the simplest moments of your day, such as drinking a morning latte or the bigger questions you are reflecting on. Be an active participant versus a passive bystander in your own life.
Lesson 7: Spend your money on experiences versus things. Travel will fuel and facilitate growth to an exponential degree. Take chances to see the world. A friend once offered these words of advice. There are three things you need to travel: money, time, and health. You will never have all three, so when there are two available. Take advantage of this throughout your life.
Lesson 8: Begin each day with gratitude, intention, and serving others. You are the writer of your own story, and you have the capacity each morning to choose how you want it to go. There is power in this. Learn to bring in what you want in your life, through appreciating the gifts you already have. Focus on how you can be present with others. This itself is a present for both of you. Be intentional at the start of the day. Louise Hay states, “How you start your day is how you live your day, how you live your day is how you live your life.”
Lesson 9: It’s not the big moments that create your life, but the daily acts of discipline. This particular moment in your life does not define you, it’s the ongoing practice of how you choose to live your life. The small steps you take each day build your character. It may take time to figure out what methods suit you. Allow the trials and errors to occur. Although these acts will be part of your discipline, give them space to become fluid. They will grow and morph as you do.
Lesson 10: Honor and respect the creativity that resides in you. Although it seems that society and your family regard your degree your attaining today as one of the highest accomplishments (and it is), know that there are so many other aspects that are necessary for your vitality and flourishment. Keep creativity in your life. Do not lose sight of this. Don’t give up the dance classes, collages, journaling, concert attendances, cultivating music mix-tapes/playlists and wearing of quirky clothes. When these components are absent in your life, you become robotic. For you to thrive, you must remain creative. If it doesn’t exist in your work life, seek it out through other means. Perhaps at a later time, it may become more fundamental to your career than this doctorate.
Originally published at itonlytakesasmile.com