Dear Dr. Laura:
Nineteen years ago I had the privilege of interviewing you while I was a TV news reporter in Bakersfield. I was pregnant with my second child, very sick, and woefully unprepared. Shortly after that interview and after I'd given birth to our daughter, I retired from TV news to raise our growing family. Earlier this year, I rediscovered your program on SiriusXM, and it is now a part of my afternoons.
Several years ago I began a blog devoted to the restoration of social graces, itmannersalot.blogspot.com. It is now also a monthly magazine column for Bakersfield Life. This month's issue I addressed the Class of 2013, which included that baby girl born in early 1995 whom I was carrying when I interviewed you.
Thank you for all of your advice then, 19 years ago, and today.
TO THE CLASS OF 2013
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!"
– Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
In the coming weeks, thousands of graduates will don caps and gowns, receive a hard-earned diploma, and set sail on their idyllic journey to great places. They will no doubt thank all those who helped them in reaching this milestone: Google, Wikipedia, Starbucks and Mr. ATM to name a few.
And they will be lathered in accolades, pats on the back and high-fives. The path to graduation will be like playing Candy Land – frothy, and laden with fluffy, artificially sweetened pieces of advice. Enjoy every last bite of the sugar-coated pearls of wisdom. And after the last sip of your iced mocha, marinate on this:
No one owes you a thing. Oh sure, your parents may be picking up the tuition tab for now (which may be closed before your first Incomplete), but you are not ENTITLED to anything. Carve your path in life by wanting what you already have, not having everything you want. Living each day from a place of immense gratitude and thankfulness will lower your blood pressure, extend your life, improve your health and wellness, and attract others to you like a magnet.
Appreciate where you are right now. You may never get that dream job, but find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Remember, in this job market tighter than Spanx, don’t give up or consider certain employment beneath you. Manage what little money you have and make it last. Don’t contribute to the national debt, but pay your debt to your community. Invest in making your corner of the world better, safer and nicer.
Make the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of your daily vocabulary. Like magic, you will be amazed at the doors they will help open for you. In a world increasingly void of civility and thoughtfulness, being polite and courteous to others will always give you an advantage.
Discover what moves you, inspires you and brings out the best in you, and then chase this passion to the ends of the earth. What you are passionate about will define you, not the leased luxury car you think you must drive or the crib in the fancy zip code where you think you should reside.
Living an honest life of purpose will take leaps of faith and involve risk-taking. If you play life safe, you will never truly know what you are capable of doing, or feeling. Your true success will not be measured just by all your wins and getting what you want, but by your losses and disappointments as well. Failing IS succeeding, if you find the lesson to be learned in the experience and don’t let it be a lesson lost.
Life is not easy. In fact, it will be downright hard when you least expect it. But it will always beat the six-feet-under alternative. Rest your faith in a higher power.
Don’t marry the first person who sweeps you off your feet. Romance and butterflies in your stomach have a shelf life shorter than a Taylor Swift song; Build your future on bedrock of commitment, respect and shared values with someone you see yourself sitting side by side with in wheelchairs in a nursing home someday.
Give back, each and every day, in big or small ways. Whether it is holding the door for an elderly person, letting the shopper with just one item leap ahead of you, or volunteering for a non-profit, giving of yourself, your time and talents isn’t for others to do. It is part of your unspoken contract with growing up and becoming a mature adult.
Reading may no longer be mandatory, but never stop. Read everything you can get your hands on. The more you read, the more you know, the better you are able to converse, and the more interesting you become to others.
Enjoy the obstacle course that your life will become. That’s right, the student loans, the unreasonable professor, the selfish roommate. You’re not going to be able to rewind your journey like a television episode on demand. ALL of it will become the fabric of your life!
And finally, laugh often. In almost every circumstance veiled by uncertainty or angst, there will be slivers of something worth laughing at. Laugh at yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Not only is it the best medicine, but it is much cheaper than prescriptions.
As beloved Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel writes in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, life really is a ‘Great Balancing Act’. Wherever you go and whatever you do up there on the high wire of life, be authentically you, and not someone you think others should see. Take ownership of your actions and all of their consequences. In doing so, you will strike the perfect balance, and what really ‘Manners A lot’!
- Lisa Kimble