Friday, May 27, 2005

10 suggestions to make the most of your post-graduation life

Live gently, enjoy the journey, get a hobby

Register columnist

When I was fresh out of college a friend of mine - he was in his 60s at the time - told me that, a few aches and pains aside, he didn't feel any different at his advancing age than he did when he was in his 20s. I couldn't understand how that could be, given that the four decades or so that had passed were an eternally long time.

Now that I am in my mid-40s, and my oldest child is going into high school, I can understand what my friend was saying. Really, events that took place 30 years ago sometimes feel as if they took place last weekend. I don't have many aches and pains yet, but I definitely understand how quickly decades, and an entire lifetime, can pass.

On that realistic note, here are 10 suggestions to make the most of your post-graduation life:

1. Treat every moment with relish.

Do not waste your time. Have fun, of course. Do not be dour either. But do not tarry in pursuing your dreams, lest you wake up one morning late in life wondering where the time has gone and why you never did anything that matters. A book for Russian orthodox monks reminds them that the best way to live a holy life is to remember that life is finite, that they will eventually die. One needn't be a monk to learn from that profound wisdom.

2. Be intellectually curious.

You should search for truth and be willing to change your mind when confronted with new facts. I saw a license-plate holder the other day that said, "Truth, not tolerance." Actually, that saying is half-right. Tolerance in and of itself is empty, a politically correct passion that loses sight of the quest for truth. But one ought to seek truth and be tolerant at the same time, lest one become self-righteous and arrogant.

3. Don't let your ideology get in the way of your love of justice.

Too many times, I've seen people so committed to a particular point of view that they are unwilling to deviate from it, even if it's the right thing to do. For instance, people who are "tough on crime" often want to throw the book at any criminal, even in a situation where leniency is in order. Softening up, even when the facts demand it, is hard to do for people unwilling to backslide on their particular outlook. My suggestion: Always do the right thing; you can work on the ideological ramifications at another time.

4. Live gently.

I know the saying, "Life's short, play hard." But, really, that's a foolish viewpoint. You should make time for play, and you should be willing to work and even play hard. But you want to think about what you do before you do it. I like the road sign when one drives into the state of Maryland: "Drive Gently." You want to live gently, too. You don't want to irrevocably damage your life or someone else's through carelessness. Accidents happen, but less so to people who are careful about the way that they live. I'm not saying to avoid taking well-selected chances, but a life well-lived is one well aware of the perils of rash behavior.

5. Find love, get married, have kids.

This used to be standard advice - so much so that generations have come to ignore it. Granted, marriage and child-rearing isn't for everyone. Certainly, one is better off single than being locked into a bad marriage. But if you find true love, don't hesitate. As I said before, life is short. There's nothing more fulfilling than taking this sometimes tiring journey as a family.

6. Figure out what you want to do in life as early as possible.

It can take years to develop a career. Success and financial rewards usually don't happen overnight. I know someone who continually changes his mind about what he wants to do, and as such never gets off the first, most frustrating rung of each career ladder. The sooner you decide, and point your compass in the right direction, the more quickly you will find fame, fortune, or at least enjoy what you do every day. Because, well, you'll be doing a lot of it.

7. Enjoy the journey.

It's trite, perhaps, but important. You should have a destination. But too often, people get to their destination, then immediately pick a new destination. They never enjoy the ride, but only dream about the great things that will happen when they get to a new place. They live life disappointed. But those who like the car trip as much as the final vacation spot are among the happiest folk you'll meet.

8. Follow the 10 Commandments or the Golden Rule.

These are time-tested truths, no matter your particular faith. An early boss of mine, in his exaggerated West Virginia accent, used to credit all good things to "cleeeeean living." He was pretty much right. Don't forget it. An honest life is a reward unto itself.

9. Develop a hobby.

If only I had followed this advice. I have few hobbies, few skills outside of work. This is a source of endless frustration. Here's where I learn from my daughters, who are always playing their instruments or tending to their pets or riding horses or playing sports. Nothing clears the work-addled mind like a good, active hobby. P.S.: TV, video games and the like do NOT count as hobbies.

10. Live an examined life.

You know the saying: An unexamined life is a dangerous thing. You know people who don't examine their lives, but see the world entirely from their own, narrow perspective. Christian apologist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote that we all live in our "self-enclosed prisons." The best way out is to look inward, to examine in all honesty the things we do well and to correct the things we don't do so well.



Blogger hookem said...

#2 and #8 contradict each other.

8:10 AM  

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