The University of Life

Every year around this time, I watch a new batch of high school graduates being cruelly pushed out into the “real world”, thinking, “Shit’s about to get real for y’all.” The beginning of the rude awakening that is adulthood.

Face it, adulthood is mega hyped, isn’t it? As naive little kids, we’re fooled into thinking that adulthood is when life finally begins…but for different reasons. WE get to decide when we go to bed, what we eat, where we go, what we do. If we want chocolate cake for breakfast, we can have it, dammit. If we want to stay up all night long and watch TV, nobody can tell us NOT to. Everything we do is OUR CALL. Whoopie! Our inner selves are jumping for joy, thinking, “This is gonna be great!”

When reality sets in, it ain’t pretty. How quickly we learn that it’s not all “chocolate cake for breakfast” and “staying up as late as we want”. Our carefree lifestyle is replaced by something called “responsibility” and we realize that we’re no longer living in the warm, fuzzy cocoon, lovingly crafted by our parents who took care of everything. They told us about the cost of living, the arrival of bills demanding our hard-earned money, the value of education, the importance of safety, and all the benefits of saving as much money as possible. They knew that their advice and lectures fell on deaf ears, but they told us anyway, hoping we would understand that they were giving us the answers based on their wisdom and expertise.

And we do understand. But not when we’re supposed to understand. We understand when we experience that “OMG! I sound like my parents!” moment. We understand when we experience the same feelings of frustration, exasperation, anger, and helplessness with our own children. We understand when we realize that, after a certain point, there’s not a lot that we can do {as our kids move toward their independence}, apart from praying for their safety, strength, and ability to cope with any and all situations that may crop up on them unexpectedly. Sooner or later, we all learn that we must take what we’re given and make the best of it. We learn that things don’t always go according to plan. We learn that just because we merely wish for everything to go smoothly doesn’t mean it will. We learn that there’s no such thing as “breezing through life”, unaffected by adversity and complex circumstances.

But that’s the whole point of life. We’re not put on this Earth to experience only happiness and joy. How could we appreciate joy if we didn’t also experience sadness? Life is all about recognizing and appreciating the balances. It’s about the journey, not the destination. It’s about the lessons we must learn to understand and appreciate the real meaning of success {hint: it’s not about money or material things!}. We can’t seal ourselves up in a protective, plastic bubble to avoid pain or things that might offend us.

Chris and I graduated from high school 35 years ago. For me, it’s exactly 35 years since today is the anniversary of my graduation day. I can remember that day like it was last week. Wasn’t it? It doesn’t seem possible that so many years have passed. Adulthood has a way of clarifying many things, one being that I knew absolutely nothing at 17. Another is that I didn’t appreciate my youth as much as I should have {youth really is wasted on the young}. One of the most profound lessons that I learned in my 52 years didn’t come from a book but from many years of experiences and observations that we can only get from what’s called the University of Life. As cliché as it sounds, resistance is futile. What we want, what we think we want, and what we wish for aren’t necessarily what’s best for us. We can work towards something our whole lives only to find that it’s not what we thought. When we’re not open to learning, we wonder why certain things keep happening to us, when we should be paying closer attention.

In closing and in honor of our 35th anniversary of graduating, I leave you with a few pictures of us as we looked when we were just finishing high school and ready to begin our real “University of Life” education.

Also, a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful moms who may see this. ❤

Until next time…

 

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