Last week’s column

Pub­li­ca­tion: Free­dom — OCR - Pla­cen­tia News-Times; Date: June 30, 2017; Sec­tion: News; Page Num­ber: 3

Address­ing an invis­i­ble audience

As we bring the cur­tain down on June, I sup­pose I should be focused on our 4th of July fes­tiv­i­ties. There will be bar­be­cues, fire­works, and a few speeches about patriotism.

I will be stock­ing up on tran­quil­iz­ers for the dogs, who do not care for explo­sive noises of any kind.

My mind, how­ever, keeps stray­ing back to all the com­mence­ment speeches I’ve been hear­ing, either in per­son or via the inter­net. Every June, we are treated to won­der­ful words of advice from peo­ple who have gained wis­dom from their experiences.

Some­times I fan­ta­size about giv­ing a com­mence­ment speech. Where oth­ers might grip their hair­brush and sing in front of the mir­ror, imag­in­ing they are Lady Gaga, I grip an imag­i­nary podium and look out at my invis­i­ble audience.

I’m sure you’re all won­der­ing why I gath­ered you here,” I say, because you should always begin with some­thing clever. Then I promise not to quote from Oh, The Places You’ll Go, because every­one quotes that book.

In my imag­i­nary speech, I think about all the peo­ple I’ve known and read about, and how they suc­ceeded in their fields, if not in their lives. I want to impart their secrets to this new group of young peo­ple, who are head­ing off to become adults.

The hard part is say­ing what I need to say, not what I want to say.

I’m a mom. I’ve spent my son’s life­time try­ing to bal­ance between pro­tect­ing him and let­ting him explore this world. It’s dif­fi­cult at times, and I have to ask myself whether my rules are for his safety or my peace of mind.

Other par­ents must also walk this tightrope. We know what we did as kids—we don’t want our chil­dren repeat­ing our mis­takes, even as they grow older.

My mis­takes shaped me, though, as much or more than my suc­cesses. Eat­ing peanut but­ter and crack­ers at the end of the month taught me to bud­get my money more care­fully. Get­ting fired from a job taught me to be respon­si­ble for my own choices. Fail­ing at rela­tion­ships taught me how to be a bet­ter per­son to every­one around me.

I had no safety net, and I landed hard a few times.

So what I want to say to young peo­ple is to dream big, climb high, and soar on the wings of success.

What I need to say is, I hope you fail. I hope you face hard­ships. I hope things don’t always go your way and some­times you don’t have enough of any­thing, and it makes you sad. It goes com­pletely against my grain to say this, but these are the moments that will sculpt you into a fully func­tion­ing per­son. The only way you find your willpower is when you’ve been knocked down and have to rise up.

Of course, I want to be there to help you. Every time I get an oppor­tu­nity, I’ll leave the door open and the light on. Get off the floor, stretch out your hand, and I’ll help you through.

Our coun­try began as a group of peo­ple from other lands, who built a vil­lage and helped each other sur­vive. I’ve over­sim­pli­fied the story, but the impor­tant part is, they held their hands out to the shore and wel­comed the folks who came after them.

Maybe I am talk­ing about the 4th of July, after all.

Long­time Pla­cen­tia res­i­dent Gayle Car­line tracks those moments that shape her days as a wife, mom, com­puter whiz and horse­woman. E-mail her at [email protected].

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