on limited time, life lessons & the importance of being kind
It's Memorial Day in the United States today -- widely viewed as the unofficial beginning of summer. Normally we'd probably be having some sort of barbecue with friends -- but we did that yesterday. Today, the weather is humid and soggy and generally unfit for outdoor fun -- so this morning the three of us decided to head to a local coffeehouse for breakfast. It's raining outside, but it's quiet inside: Alex is journaling, Marcus is reading, and I'm writing this blog post. We're each doing our own thing, but it still feels like we're doing them together.
It's also graduation time in the United States. All up and down my Facebook feed, friends are celebrating their kids graduating from high school: there are photos of proms, and caps-and-gowns, and graduation parties, all with captions from proud parents. It's an exciting time, for sure. However, for the first time, I'm starting to understand that this is also a deeply bittersweet moment for the parents. On one hand, the time has come to watch your kids spread their wings -- they've got their diplomas and plans for their futures, and you get to watch them make their ways into the world, with all the potential of life ahead of them. On the other hand, with the exception of your wallet, these plans largely don't include you anymore. I imagine most parents are feeling really conflicted, a combination of pride, excitement, heartbreak and grief, with just a dash of terror, all mixed together. I never realized this before, but it's becoming quickly apparent that my own time for feeling all these things about my own daughter is only 5 years away. I'm starting to realize that our time together as a threesome is starting to run out.
I read somewhere recently (I don't remember where) that when it comes to spending money, we would do best to eschew spending on things, and instead, spend money on experiences. For the most part, we live our lives this way: we have a modest home, and Alex never has the latest and greatest gizmo and gadget (often to her dismay) -- but we do try to hop on planes or have adventures as often as we can afford it. We want her to try new foods and experience new cultures and see new art. But I'm starting to realize that I need to value moments like right now -- where we're just sitting together, quietly doing really ordinary things, but in the same space. I have no idea what memories Alex will take with her when she goes off on her own, but as her first year of junior high winds to a close, and her last year of junior high begins in a few months (and then high school after that), I think my job is to maximize those experiences for her, so she has lot to pick and choose from as memories she wants to hold dear. At this point, I think Marcus and I have done all we can to teach her right from wrong -- from this point on, it's about giving her experiences, and helping her navigate the choices she faces from here on out.
Anyway, I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. And since it is graduation season, I thought I'd share my very favourite commencement speech of all time: George Saunders, at Syracuse University in 2013, on the importance of kindness.
Click here or the image below to watch and listen to his 12-minute talk.