To thine own self be true

It’s that time of year again – high school graduation time.

Think back, if you will, to your own high school graduation. If you are like most of us, you probably didn’t listen to the speeches given that day – to this day I wonder what was said at my graduation. I’m guessing it went something like this:

You are at a crossroads in your life today. Important decisions are coming up. In these next few years, you’ll make critical decisions about career paths and future happiness. You’ll decide today where you’ll be in thirty years.

Go out into the world and be the best that you can be. Get a job. Make money – lots of it. Save for retirement. Make more money. Buy lots of toys.

Daryl with monkey

Daryl at the monkey refuge in Ecuador

If I’m ever invited to speak at a high school graduation, I’m going to say something totally different.  Here’s my version of that speech:

There will be many pressures on you in the coming days. Everybody you meet will have words of advice for you to contemplate. They’ll tell you to study hard, work hard and climb the corporate ladder. Save for retirement. Plan a family. Do the responsible thing.

I say, to thine own self be true. Follow your passion – wherever it leads. Life is short; you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Listen carefully to me kids – our society places a plethora (yes, I would use that word – I like how it sounds) of demands upon us.  Society demands we work for that mythical white picket fence, bunches of cars in the driveway, and 2.4 kids. Just wait – you’ll feel that pressure.  It’s what everyone does.

But what if that is not what you want? What if you want to march to your own drummer? What if your straight and narrow is different from another’s straight and narrow? Then what?

I’ll tell you what: to thine own self be true. Do what makes you happy. Do what makes your inner self dance.

Bungee jumping

Bungee jumping

I think that’s what is lacking in our society today. We’re all too busy keeping up with the Jones’ and thinking that another toy will make us happy, but really – all we need to do is pursue our passions.

My niece posted a status on Facebook the other day: I so want to follow my passion! I just don’t know what my passion is.

She’s got it right. There is no doubt in my mind that Hannah will follow her passion once she discovers it. In the meantime, she’ll explore various avenues and possibilities. She’ll take classes and volunteer and be involved in her community in any way she can. And the whole time, she’ll be searching for her passion. She’ll find it. I know she will.

We can all find our passion – if we want to. Some are luckier than others in that their passion finds them; others have to go looking for it. But my challenge to all of us today is this: to thine own self be true. Find your passion and follow it – wherever it may lead.

It’s never too late to do what makes you happy – even if your own high school graduation took place back in the dark ages.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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6 Responses to To thine own self be true

  1. Rain June 6, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Sage advice! I thought I’d found mine once (several years after coming out of the Dark Ages at the age of 34), but then I had a child. Now I am more clueless than when I started at 18. But, sometimes I think I secretly enjoy the seemingly endless hunt for my bliss. I once had a friend who said of me, “you will never be satisfied”. And, to a certain extent, I think that’s true. The World is just too big for narrowing my life down to & following one passion – well, except for travel, of course ;-).

  2. Nancy June 6, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    I think that our passions change over time – which just adds to the endless hunt. Maybe we find our passion and it’s great for a while – but then we grow and change and find we want other things, so we’re right back where we started.

  3. Wilma in WV June 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    My husband and I have mostly marched to the beat of a different drummer. We are content to buy cars that are older and even bought one of our Surburbans on eBay. Flew to Dallas and drove it back and had a wonderful impromptu vacation. I know, I know, Surbs are gas gusslers, but we look at savings in a different way. We always pay cash for an automobile and cash for gasoline, and the Surb fits our lifestyle. I play several musical instruments and some of them are BIG (Celtic harp for instance) and it is necessary to have a big car for the room. Since we drive older cares, the depreciation is not a factor. We also live conservatively and love to travel. We camp, stay in hotels that are clean, but not the most expensive.

    I think that in looking back on our lives, we are very content to be where we are today. I think our passion was and is to be content with what we have, no matter where we are. Many do not understand our yearnings for travel and will not take the risk of the unknown. I just finished reading ” Spark Your Dream” by Cande and Herman Zapp. (I think I found it through your blog.) What an amazing journey both geographically and philosophically. This couple found that they were able to turn their fears into opportunities and to live their passion.

    I know this is a little discombobulated, but thanks for letting put in my two cents worth! Blessings and hope you are able to get some of the issues resolved.

  4. Justin June 10, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Passion is tough to come by when you are not surrounded by passionate people. It ofte requires brave sacrifice.

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. There is no path. No RIGHT WAY! You want to do something, go and do it. It may not work out, but then there is always something new to try. It doesn’t just fall in you lap, you’ve got to go get it.
    GREAT POST and if you do ever give a grad speech, please put it on You Tube!

  5. James June 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Many more people are being diagnosed with one sort of disability or another. Because of our disabilities, many of us will not be able to take the more typical road that our peers will take. Life is an 80+ year long journey. If your journey requires a detour, so be it. Use what your strengths are to get thru life and don’t try to keep up with everybody. Worring that your not keeping up wastes valuable resources that could be used to move forward.

    I have Asperger Syndrome and bipolar disoder. I’ve spent the majority of my 43 yrs going up and down and around and around. I am where I am and don’t stress over it anymore.

  6. Yvette June 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    The closest thing I ever got to writing high school graduation speeches was devoting my first column at the university newspaper to advice for incoming freshmen. Part of it was something along these lines- “There are few things more tragic than someone who moans at a party ‘I always wanted to be an astrophysicist, but my dad wanted to be a lawyer…’ Well tell your dad to be a lawyer; you go be an astronaut.”

    And then I went on to point out to kids that if they found a beaker in the chemistry lab labeled “concentrated hydro-sulfuric acid” they probably didn’t need to verify by sticking their finger in it. Follow your dreams and don’t be stupid: it was a great column if I may say so. 🙂

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