Graduates come in many different forms. It is not just high school graduates or college graduates, but others who are changing something in their life to start a new journey. And I just want to share a story with those graduates whoever you are.
I’ve worked in the “real world.” I like that term because I have no idea what it means. It suggests that somewhere there might be a place that isn’t real? I don’t know. But I talk about the real world because the other day I realized how much I have not let the real world get me. I’ve been out of school a very long time, and in that very long time, lots of stuff has happened. I’ve lived in Scotland. I’ve published books. I once carried a parrot on my head. And I raised a little Basset hound puppy to be a very fine lady. But at the end of the day, I’m still that little person with big dreams that sat behind a desk in a very small high school in the middle of nowhere New York.
How do I know this?
I watched the movie Sabrina the other night. The one with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond, not the original with Audrey Hepburn. (Although I love the original!) But this was a movie that used to play over and over again on cable when my family first got a satellite dish. (See reference earlier about middle of nowhere New York.) It was a big deal to get a satellite dish, and I spent way too many hours watching whatever was on. Because until then, my view of the outside world was extremely limited. Extremely. So I saw this movie called Sabrina, and it had this woman in it who had frizzy, curly hair identical to mine, and she did these awesome things and proved to everyone how really cool she was even though they had thought her quiet and inconsequential. But she wasn’t any of those things at all. And I watched this movie, and I said, that’s going to be me.
So let’s get back to the real world. The real world can get you down. You may have dreams and aspirations and ideas, but the practicality of trying to survive sometimes gets in the way. This leads me to my own experience in the real world, and it wasn’t until recently, that I realized it wasn’t my experience but my experience of listening to others’ experiences. Let me explain. Everyday I would walk into this office, and the office manager who sat at the front of the office space would say to me, “Why am I here? I wanted to be a teacher.” Everyday. Everyday she would say this to me, and I would look at her and not know what to say. She was so sad. She had let the real world get in the way of her dreams. And she wasn’t the only one. One person had told me how he had wanted to be a deejay. Another had wanted to go into computers but she ended up having three kids. And one simply told me that she had made some really bad choices, but she was hoping to get on track soon.
And so I’m sitting there watching Sabrina the other night, and a ton of bricks fell on me. (Not literally. I am telling a story here.) I am Sabrina. I really am. I said I was going to to do this, and I did it. There are little things in the movie that Sabrina does that I had always watched those million years ago and said I’m going to do that. I’m going to chop my hair off, I’m going to write in a journal, I’m going to take photos with a really cool camera. Well…check, check, and check. But that’s only the exterior. The internal workings of the character of Sabrina is about growth, finding one’s confidence, finding one’s self, and celebrating it. That’s what Sabrina is about. And so when I thought of all of those people who had had dreams and never lived them, who sat in offices just trying to get by, I thought how lucky I am to be Sabrina.
I didn’t let the real world get in my way.
Now a word of warning: if you don’t succumb to the real world, people will think you’re crazy. I’ve walked away from full time employment even though I didn’t have other means of support. I randomly decided to go live in another country for a while. And I uploaded a book to the internet once and hoped someone would read it. 99% of the time no one takes me seriously. 99% of the time people just shake their heads at me. But when I look at those sad people shaking their heads at me, I think I am Sabrina. So go ahead and shake your head.
So to the graduates of 2014, don’t forget who you wanted to be when you grew up. One day if you’re strong enough, you might just be that person.