JK Rowling said, in her now famous 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech, "On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called 'real life'; I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination."
I agree. Many of you are preparing to graduate from high school, college, graduate school and doctoral programs. Of all the diplomas and certificates of specialization I have hanging on one of the walls in my office, the one indication of all my worth as a therapist is not displayed there. The years of experiencing the very 'real life' pain of failure and the 'pure joy' of my imagination are what formed my ability to be a therapist and an author.
Like JK Rowling, I too have experiences (which I write about in my book, "Am I Going To Be Okay? Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief.") where after college I moved to New York City to be an actress and a dancer. Growing up in the small village of Delanson, NY, there were no stop lights and no stop signs. There were only railroad tracks to slow you down as you past through. Yet, I still 'imagined' I would make it as a star on broadway and live the city life. I did live in New York City for two years, loving and hating my time there. I left NYC broken hearted and depressed when anxiety attacks forced me to find the seclusion of my parents home back in Delanson.
I am grateful for the experience of those two years, but it took the journey of finding my way through the heartache of lost dreams to where I am now to see the 'benefit' of failure.
Rowling states, "I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
As you or your loved ones prepare for graduation within these next few weeks, I hope you have less time for expectations and more for the joy of knowing that everything's going to be okay.