The Class of '67 was not all that different from the Class of '97. Like you, we were proud (we had finally made it), nostalgic (we had many good memories of friends we would miss), and hopeful (our futures looked bright).
Remember; life is what happens on the way to your dreams.
Yet we in the Class of '67 have found more than disappointment in the rubble of our youthful dreams. We are discovering that some of the best gifts in life are the unexpected ones.
|Note: This column
first appeared during the last week of May, 1997.
To the Class of '97
Thirty years ago I stood where you will stand this weekend, at the front of an auditorium with my high school buddies about to receive our diplomas. The Class of '67 was not all that different from the Class of '97. Like you, we were proud (we had finally made it), nostalgic (we had many good memories of friends we would miss), and hopeful (our futures looked bright).
I can't remember what the speakers said that May night, but I'm sure they talked about the vast opportunities open to us in a fast-changing world. In short, they talked about our dreams--the same thing you are likely to hear at your graduation.
We (as you will be) were told to set our sights high, to dream big dreams, to refuse to settle for anything less. And, 30 years later, I'm glad someone issued the challenge. Nothing is accomplished without first being envisioned, and the successes of my middle-aged friends are due partly to the dreams of their youth.
Yet there are other expectations necessary for success in life, expectations that we in the Class of '67 didn't hear on graduation night. You probably won't hear them either since they don't make for inspirational speeches. I share these things with you along with my sincere congratulations on a job well done and best wishes for your future.
You may not get into the first college to which you apply. You probably won't be selected by the first company where you interview for a job. In the business world, you will receive more "no's" than "yes's." The point is that the road to our dreams is paved with rejections--many of them. So decide now to endure rejection, to not get down on yourself because of it, to use it instead as a springboard for renewed vision and effort.
Until we're about 35-years-old, it seems that nothing goes fast enough. We can't wait to (pick one) get out of college, get married, have children, get them out of diapers and into school, land a good job and receive quick promotions, and/or build a successful business. Then one day, about when we approach our 40th birthday, we realize how much we loved those formative years.
If we had it to do over again, we would do what I hope you will: cherish and embrace every trying and mundane minute; remember that life is what happens on the way to your dreams.
Expect the unexpected.
And at 48 we have learned something important about dreams themselves that we didn't know at 18: dreams rarely are fulfilled exactly as planned. This is what often precipitates what is called the midlife crisis. It's a huge disappointment to realize that one's dreams will never come true.
Yet we in the Class of '67 have found more than disappointment in the rubble of our youthful dreams. We are discovering that some of the best gifts in life are the unexpected ones, the ones most of us would never find without the downward glance of disappointment and despair.
So pursue your dreams wholeheartedly. Don't settle for anything less than your full effort. Just remember; when the unexpected seems to interrupt or destroy the dreams you held on graduation night, look around you. You may be staring at some of life's best gifts yet.
Respond to this column on Best Years Blog.
View others' responses to this column before January 2004.