I do my best thinking while working in the kitchen. So last week, while I was mixing up a batch of meatballs for the dogs, I was multi-tasking. My hands were working and my mind was contemplating my grandson’s graduation (with honors) from Ventura College in Calif.
Paul is 20 years old and moving on up to his uncles’ old stomping grounds at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he will major in Kinesiology (and please, don’t ask me what that is!). He’s not only a good student, but a caring, responsible and hard working young man.
However, like grandmothers everywhere, I tactfully wanted to add some words of wisdom to go along with his graduation gift. Parents give advice. Schools and churches give advice. Grandparents do too.
As I slid the meatballs into the oven, I began making a mental list and jotting down notes of what I wish that I had known when I was his age. In no particular order, my thoughts came out like this:
1. Life is a battle. It’s seldom easy and when it is, look out! It’s designed to challenge your abilities and sharpen your problem solving skills. Life can be hard but that’s not bad.
2. In life’s struggles you will grow strong, uncover your destiny and discover who you are. Look for those growth spurts.
3. Believe in yourself. You were made in God’s image. You are important. You have a purpose and a place in creation. There’s a reason you were put on this earth. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
4. Don’t whine or expect others to bail you out of your problems. Oprah Winfrey (the legendary advice giver of all time) repeatedly said something like this: “You are responsible for your life. Don’t expect anyone to bail you out of your messes but you.”
5. Expect the unexpected! Be flexible. Have a plan for your life but be willing to change when life throws you a curve ball.
6. Life is always a balance beam. Work hard to pay the bills but make time to have fun. Schedule vacations and time to relax.
7. Be financially frugal. Make a budget and live within it. If there’s no money in the “dining out” envelope, eat scrambled eggs and wait for the next payday. Starting out there’s never enough money at the end of the month … but it gets better.
8. Goofed up? Don’t be too hard on yourself. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. Learn from them and move on. The really big screw-ups make great stories to tell your grandchildren.
9. Live by the Golden Rule. You’ll never go wrong when you treat others with kindness and respect and an attitude of gratitude.
10. Live with integrity. What goes around comes around. Be a man (or woman) of your word. And don’t be afraid to apologize when you’re wrong — or say you’re sorry if you’re not to blame.
11. Do what you love but also learn to love what you do. Some jobs just aren’t loveable but they are necessary (like cleaning up after the dog!). Look at them as temporary necessities and focus on the future.
12. No matter how hard you try, some people won’t like you or will just be unreasonable. Accept it and move on.
13. Follow your heart when you chose your mate but chose wisely. You’ll be together a long time. In the end, family is all we’ve got. So be sure you’re not only ‘in love’ but ‘in sync’ about life styles, family values, finances, household responsibilities, children, etc.
After I pulled the meatballs out of the oven I looked at the above jotted notes and laughed. I remember being much younger than Paul and having similar advice given to me. I didn’t pay much attention to it. Intellectually, I knew all of this stuff. I was smart, attentive in classes and I thought I had all of the basics covered. He does too.
Eventually, I learned most of the above from experience. Or, as my dad would say “In the school of hard knocks.” For instance:
I learned there’s nothing like having your checking account overdrawn to teach you the value of not only having enough money in the bank but keeping good records to boot. It’s a life-long reality check.
Back in the day when we were in the restaurant business, I learned that sometimes people are just unreasonable. Once we had a customer who ordered his eggs ‘over easy’ three different times. Finally, we had our head chef cook them. No grease. No brown edges. They were perfect but unacceptable to the customer. Oy!
And I learned all about offering apologies to the general public at the Sentinel when I was working in the newsroom. Every Wed. morning, I dreaded the red blinking light on the telephone that meant I had made a mistake somewhere. I found it best to be quick to call, rectify the problem and get the pain over with.
So Paul, here’s my consolidated advice: First, live your life in confidence, with love, joy, peace and assurance. And live in the moment. We’re not promised tomorrow. We only have today.
Second, remember that God is good (it’s people that act crazy!).
Next, keep your family and good friends close but also smile at your enemies (you never know when you’re going to need their help).
And finally, always remember that grandma loves you.
Congratulations to you and all of this month’s graduates!