Three things I wish I was told had I had a graduation ceremony

It is that time of the year again. The end of May, with its smell of linden trees ready to bloom and erdelflower bushes sweeping us away in scents that send a clear message: summer is about.

Over the past couple of weeks I have read, listened to and witnessed graduations. You know, those moments when people deemed to “have arrived” bestow their wisdom on the ones seemingly still on their way. I listen to some “arrivers” with awe and breathe their words in deeply. I look at some with rage because I know theory trumps practice any day in their lives and listening to others I have to smile because … they know not what they talk about but it must sound good to them. Regardless … we, the ones whose only achievement is having lived longer, feel the need to impart our wisdom.

Having worked with the Safe Passage Across Networks organization for the past year, I understand the need for good goodbyes, the value that lies in transitions done well, healthily, in the value of reconciliation, appreciation, farewell and in thinking about one’s destination. In the midst of a transition myself, this moment in the year hits quite close to home.

I had no graduations. The high school I attended was too new, the scent of communism was still in the air and people still hated pomp and circumstance. When I graduated from college … well, the best I can come up with is that nobody really gave it a thought. So this morning I woke up imagining my ideal graduation. And because anything is possible in our minds, my graduation was gifted with three amazing humans: Viktor Frankl, Yuval Harari and Michelle Obama. And because in my makebelief graduation I was still young and restless, ready to party like it’s 1999, had only one minute to speak.

And here is what they told me:

I think this is one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child – What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.

Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecesarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how you become.

Becoming, Michelle Obama

To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all, reinvent yourself again and again. […] don’t rely on the adults too much. Most of them mean well, but they just don’t understand the world.

If you don’t know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life. […] In the end, it’s a simple empirical matter: if the algorithms indeed understand what’s happening within you better than you understand it yourself, authority will shift to them.

Of course, you might be perfectly happy ceding all authority to the algorithms and trusting them to decide things for you and for the rest of the world. If so, just relax and enjoy the ride. You don’t need to do anything about it. The algorithms will take care of everything. If, however, you want to retain some control over your personal existence and the future of life, you have to run faster than the algorithms, faster than Amazon and the government, and get to know yourself before they do. To run fast, don’t take much baggage with you. Leave all your illusions behind. They are very heavy.

What Kids Need to Succeed in 2050, Yuval Harari

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


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