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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 5/31/2014

COMMENTARY

Advice for each graduate to hold onto: Don’t lose yourself

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST
Johanek Johanek
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It‘s easy to lose keys, glasses, pens, papers, phones, combs, coffee cups, tickets, track, time, sleep, socks, library cards, books, DVDs, ATM cards, grocery lists, earrings, money, homework, pictures, friends, faith, focus, and patience. But the one thing 2014 graduates should never lose is themselves.

It’s as easy to lose yourself as it is to lose all the accoutrements you accumulate in life. When you’re young, you can’t imagine losing yourself to anything or anybody.

You’ve got a destiny to shape and set in motion. You’ve got personal and professional fulfillment to pursue.

You’re on the cusp of living large as a genuine grown-up. It’s up to you to choose agendas, weigh options, consider what appeals to you and what doesn’t.

You know better than anyone else what fits your life, what floats your boat, right? Parents, those worrywarts with furrowed brows that bespeak caution and concern, are well-meaning souls.

But they’re not you. You’re heading off to college or braving the job market.

You’re the one you have to rely on for your decisions. Grab all the advice and guidance you can. Then you decide. Commence with trial and error.

It’s part of life. Take it in stride. We all do. Every choice you make won’t be brilliant.

Chalk up the disasters as a learning experience — or is it character-building? You’ll stumble, achieve beyond your wildest expectations, get cocky, and stumble again.

The rat race is no picnic, sweetie. It’s hard work. Accomplishment is measured in perseverance and bull-headed determination.

But there’s more to life than a plush corner office, a wall of impressive plaques, and a killer resume. There’s you. Don’t lose you in the race to the finish line.

Remember the lyrics of “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads:

“And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

“And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

“And you may ask yourself — well, how did I get here?”

It’s easy to lose yourself in the fast lane. Projects, deadlines, problems, pressures can blindside you. Control you. Own you.

Hang on for the ride. It’s over in a lifetime. “Same as it ever was,” goes the refrain of “Once in a Lifetime.”

The treadmill we willingly step on to survive and succeed is engineered to keep us spinning until we fall off. But the stress of going through the motions, day after day, year after year, also can kill you.

Physically, you’d still be moving in circles, but you leave yourself behind. Somewhere, in the consuming pursuit of power and prosperity, you lose track of yourself.

You lose what makes you different from the person in the next cubicle. You lose your creative, curious, fully alive edge.

Fun and fanciful succumb to practical and purposeful, or the occupation of earning a living. You tell yourself you’ll indulge your nonmonetary passions later.

Sometime you’ll get back to playing music as a rollicking release, or painting raw emotion on canvas, or rebuilding vintage cars in the garage, or crafting a one-of-a-kind coffee table.

But time is a commodity that no one, not even the towering or talented, ever gets back. Seize it while you can. Spend some of your finite time in the pursuit of happiness.

You won’t regret it. Find the frets on your guitar again. Belt out a song that would turn Lady Gaga’s head. Dance the night away like Fred Astaire.

Express yourself for yourself. Learn early what matters most. It’s not the gold watch after a long and illustrious career.

It’s what you touch, feel, experience, share, add, enjoy. It’s what you bring to relationships, to the love of your life, to a son, a daughter.

It’s easy to lose sight of the significant when material success clouds your view. You can lose far more than your keys when power and prestige beckon.

Be forewarned. Conquer the world. Be the best you can be. But have fun.

Take vacations. Bond with a dog. Laugh. Cry. Listen. Stay true to yourself, and you can’t lose.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact Blade columnist Marilou Johanek at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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