Webster’s dictionary defines the verb “graduate” this way: “to grant an academic degree or diploma to.” However, an additional definition is this: “to mark with degrees of measurement.” As Americans, we graduate many times in our lives. We tend to think of those moments as reserved mostly for the younger generation. A child may graduate from preschool, kindergarten, and middle school even before he or she reaches the milestone of high school graduation. Then beyond that there is college graduation and perhaps graduation with a master’s or PhD. degree. Then comes life.
Actually, we graduate many times as adults, moving from one role into another. We may marry and become parents, we may move from job to job or even from one career into another. We retire and move into another phase of life, and then we may have to enter assisted living or nursing home living. It all seems a bit depressing at times unless we see these changes in life as empowering in some way.
In the June issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, an article entitled “Graduation Wisdom for Adults” offers to all of us some advice for living life to the max. The advice was fairly routine: take a chance, dare to make mistakes, find your next adventure, be polite, say yes, listen and learn–the typical stuff of graduation speakers. But one bit of advice from author Anna Quindlen was especially meaningful. Her theme was to be true to yourself. Her point was based on the story of Pinocchio and the idea that we all have a Jiminy Cricket sitting on our shoulders reminding us of our authentic self, the self we were when we were very young, before we learned to change ourselves to suit others. She said, “Do not be bullied. Acts of bravery don’t always take place on battlefields. They can take place in your heart.” She encourages us to honor our character, inclinations, and soul by listening to that voice within us.
May and June are filled with graduations, but really moments that we graduate happen throughout our lifetimes as we move from one stage to another, from one way to thinking to another, from one mood to another, from one goal to another. It really doesn’t matter so much what job we get or what state we live in or what friends we have, although they are all part of who we are. What really matters is that advice to be true to ourselves wherever we are or whatever we do. Some graduates will have their entire lives to do this. Some of us may have less time, but what counts is what we do with the time we have. We just have to think about the image that Anna Quindlen believes in–Jiminy Cricket sitting on our shoulders reminding us to be true to ourselves.