I Gave a Excessive-Faculty Graduation Handle: 5 Important Paradoxes

Aug 1, 2023 0 Comments

Not too long ago, I used to be thrilled to be requested to offer the graduation deal with for my daughter Eleanor’s high-school commencement.

(I nervous that Eleanor may not be captivated with this growth, and I used to be shocked and happy that she was actually blissful about it.)

One notice, so the conclusion is sensible: The varsity tune begins “We go forth unafraid/Sturdy with love and powerful with studying” and the tune’s remaining line is “Right here we’ve got realized to go forth unafraid.”

In writing it, I needed to discover transcendent themes, and I did. However I’ve a really sensible facet, and with out fairly that means to do it, I wrote two graduation addresses: The Profound and The Sensible.

Right here’s the model I gave, about 5 important paradoxes:


Thanks, I’m so honored to be right here. Congratulations to the Head of Faculty, lecturers, proud households and associates, and, above all, to the category of 2023.

It’s deeply shifting to me to be right here as a dad or mum, to see all of you up on stage, wearing your caps and robes. I bear in mind taking a photograph of Eleanor exterior Little Dalton on the primary day of kindergarten. I assumed, “She’s already so large!” and comforted myself by pondering, “She’s solely in kindergarten, senior yr won’t ever come.”

But right here we’re, at that unattainable milestone. The times are lengthy, however the years are brief.

Now, graduates, no matter you’re doing subsequent, you’re coming into a brand new stage of life. Your folks, your schedule, your metropolis, your relationship to your loved ones, what you eat for breakfast, all might change.

That’s thrilling, and in addition scary.

It’s possible you’ll fear, “How do I make sense of what’s coming subsequent, if all I do know is highschool?” Should you’re something like me, time and again in life, you’ll end up pondering, “Gosh, this is rather like highschool!” Life is highschool; it’s simply that prime college is the primary time we discover it.

Repeatedly, we’ve got to start out over—discover our place, discover our associates, discover our option to be on this planet.

I research happiness and human nature, and I’ve found one thing shocking: The other of a profound reality can be true. So the research of happiness is usually the research of paradoxes.

We grapple with these paradoxes all through our lives, and graduates, you’ve in all probability confronted them many instances already. Now you’re at a time of transition, once they turn out to be notably pressing.

So I supply 5 important paradoxes that will aid you make sense of your experiences—what you’ve skilled prior to now and what you’ll expertise sooner or later. As a result of life is highschool, and highschool is life.

Paradox #1: Be egocentric, if just for selfless causes, and be selfless, if just for egocentric causes.

On the subject of happiness, many individuals ask, “In a world filled with struggling and injustice, is it morally acceptable for people to hunt to be happier?”

The truth is, analysis exhibits—and expertise confirms—that once we’re happier, we’re extra more likely to interact with the issues of the world, to offer our money and time, to vote, and to be compassionate; and we’re extra curious about making change. Happiness doesn’t make folks keep out late and occasion; it helps them resolve, “Let’s begin a campus-wide rooftop photo voltaic program.”

Engaged on our personal happiness strengthens us to sort out the challenges of society. That airline reminder has turn out to be a cliché as a result of it’s true: We every have to safe our personal oxygen masks first, if we’re going to assist different folks.

So, if it is egocentric to attempt to be happier, we ought to be egocentric, if just for selfless causes.

On the similar time, we ought to be selfless, if just for egocentric causes. The most effective methods to make ourselves blissful is to make different folks blissful. Do good, really feel good—it actually works! I bear in mind speaking to a buddy who, in her twenties, had gone by a really robust time: her boyfriend broke up together with her, she bought fired, and he or she was rejected from a graduate-school program. I requested her how she bought by it, and he or she instructed me, “I used to be virtually hooked on volunteering and doing good deeds. They have been the one issues that made me really feel higher.”

We ought to be egocentric, if just for selfless causes, and be selfless, if just for egocentric causes.

Paradox #2: You’re distinctive, precisely like everybody else.

You’re one in all a sort, a singular mixture of talents and pursuits, and the identical factor is true of the folks round you.

We’re all distinctive, and we’re additionally very atypical. As an example, some of the common feelings is the sensation that you just don’t belong. So once you really feel such as you don’t slot in—say, in your first day of freshman yr—you match proper in.

Even once you suppose, “Nobody feels the way in which I do,” in all probability they do. Drummer Ringo Starr instructed a comic story in regards to the summer time that the Beatles have been recording the White Album, when he briefly left the group. He visits John Lennon and says, “I’m leaving the group as a result of I’m not taking part in nicely and I really feel unloved…and also you three are actually shut.” John says, “I assumed it was you three!” Then Ringo visits Paul McCartney and says, “I’m leaving the band. I really feel you three guys are actually shut and I’m out of it.” Paul replies, “‘I assumed it was you three!” Ringo doesn’t even trouble to go to George Harrison.

As a result of we’re distinctive, precisely like everybody else, one nice problem of our lives is to know ourselves.

You would possibly suppose, “I do know myself, I hang around with myself all day lengthy,” however it’s laborious to know ourselves. We get distracted by the way in which we want we have been, or what different folks need us to be, or we take our strengths without any consideration.

As a result of I write about happiness, folks typically say to me, “Give me the brief reply. What’s the greatest, probably the most scientifically confirmed option to turn out to be happier?”

And I clarify, “There’s no one proper manner. We every must determine it out for ourselves.”

They are saying, “Positive, certain. Simply give me the greatest manner.”

For a very long time, this query stumped me, however now once they ask, “What’s the greatest option to create a cheerful life?” I reply, “What’s one of the simplest ways to cook dinner an egg?” They are saying, “Properly, it is dependent upon how you want your eggs.” I reply, “Proper! We every have the reply that’s proper for us.”

There can’t be a one-size-fits-all reply to let you know how you can obtain your goals. Different folks can recommend prospects, however they will’t determine it out for you—and you may’t determine it out for them.

You’re distinctive, precisely like everybody else.

Paradox #3: Not selecting is a selection.

Throughout instances of change, such because the one you graduates are coming into, we have to determine what we wish—and that’s daunting. As a result of that query is so laborious, once we’re confronted with decisions, it’s simple to float.

 “Drift” is the choice we make by not deciding.

We drift once we really feel like different folks or processes are shifting occasions ahead, and we’re simply being carried alongside. We drift once we discover ourselves doing or getting one thing as a result of the folks round us are doing it or need it. You go to medical college as a result of each your dad and mom are docs. You are taking a job as a result of somebody affords you that job.

We drift as a result of we wish the respect of the folks round us, or we wish to keep away from a battle or a bout of insecurity, or we wish to finish uncertainty, so we take the trail of least resistance.

I drifted into regulation college. I didn’t know what else to do, and I instructed myself, “It will maintain my choices open,” “I can all the time change my thoughts later,” and “I can’t flip down this terrific alternative.”

The phrase “drift” has overtones of laziness or ease. Not true! Drift is usually disguised by an enormous quantity of effort. For me, regulation college was drift, and it was laborious each step of the way in which, from finding out for the LSAT to clerking for the Supreme Court docket.

Wanting again, I’m glad I went to regulation college—and that’s one other complicated factor about drift! Generally drift does make you cheerful; dangerous decision-making can result in good consequence. However don’t rely on it.

Drift is harmful, as a result of once we drift, we’re not mindfully selecting. As author James Baldwin famous: “Should you don’t reside the one life you’ve, you gained’t reside another life, you gained’t reside any life in any respect.”

Ultimately, we should select. As a result of not selecting is a selection.   

Paradox #4: Settle for your self, and in addition anticipate extra from your self.

One nice problem is to be true to ourselves, but additionally push ourselves. This can be a very difficult paradox. And also you, on the finish of your high-school years, are in all probability very accustomed to it.

Generally it may be laborious to know when to simply accept, “Hey, that’s not me, that’s not my factor,” or when to push ourselves towards a objective that’s uncomfortable.

In one in all my first jobs, a piece buddy instructed me that he’d gotten an important promotion, however as a part of it, he needed to give weekly shows to a big group—and he hated public talking. When he instructed his boss, his boss stated, “It’s okay, if you happen to don’t wish to do it, I’ll assign that position to another person.”

So my buddy needed to resolve: Settle for himself, or anticipate extra from himself? He pushed himself to offer the shows.

As you take into account a troublesome purpose, solely you’ll be able to resolve whether or not it’s the precise purpose for you. Do you have to take Statistics, be a part of the intramural basketball staff, audition for the improv group, launch a start-up, run for workplace?

Accept your self, and in addition anticipate extra from your self.

Simply as we will use Paradox #4 to assist us perceive how we can take into account ourselves, we will use Paradox #5 to assist us perceive how others take into account us. 

Paradox #5: Love is unconditional, and love is demanding.

Graduates, I’m certain you’ve felt the burden of this paradox—in all probability, fairly lately! Love accepts you simply as you’re, and love expects one of the best from you.

I heard an important instance of this paradox from musician Rosanne Money, a few dialog she had together with her husband and musical collaborator, John Leventhal. 

The 2 have been in Nashville, the place Rosanne did a visitor session on one other band’s album; John got here alongside to hang around in the course of the recording. After the session, he didn’t say something, so Rosanne requested, “How did you prefer it?” He answered, “I’d have pushed you more durable.”

Love says, “You’re one of the best,” and love says, “You are able to do higher.”

Graduates, typically, the folks round you—dad and mom, lecturers, bosses, coaches, associates—might get this fallacious; as a result of we see a lot good, we don’t understand once we’re pushing too laborious. However when you consider all of the reminders, to-do lists, and lectures you’ve acquired, bear in mind, our insistence that you just reside as much as your potential is an expression of our boundless love.

Love is unconditional, and love is demanding.

So these are 5 paradoxes for at the present time, which celebrates each an ending and a commencing.

And right here’s a bonus paradox: I’m unhappy to see the years at Dalton come to an finish, and I’m blissful, too. I’m unhappy to say farewell to an establishment that my household loves, and blissful to see all you graduates, able to exit into the world, sturdy with love and powerful with studying. Now it’s time to go forth unafraid.  


Leave A Comment

To Top