Graduation and Life’s Transitions

Penny S. Tee Article

Graduation and life’s transitions are on my mind. My son just graduated high school. Life is every cliché, time does fly by. He is smart, kind, got accepted into a great college and has a bright future ahead of him. At graduation, my Valedictorian looked like a Jewish Christmas tree with all of his medals, pins and ribbons : ) I’m a proud Mama.

It was so much fun to see his friends in triumph and attend a few graduation parties. Some he’s known since Mommy & Me and Kindergarten. We’ve all been through so much of life together. We’re so grateful for the path our son has taken us on…the adventures and life-long friends that we’ve made. Who knew when he was born the journey that he would lead us to?

Well, some of our family and friends who had seen it before had stories to tell. They’ve always helped along the way. We’ve been truly blessed being parents of an only child. After all, I didn’t get married until 41, had him at 44 and raising him, doing it to the best of our ability, has been satisfying and enough.

I don’t know how folks do it with multiple kids…bless you, although I’ve heard many stories along the way, A series of whirlwinds as my tornado friends run from one son’s baseball game, to helping their daughter running track and another who has to be at her friends slumber party. Phew! Just listening makes me feel tired : )

Even our rabbi is going through a transition of her own. We went to Shabbat services last night. She’s leaving to spend more time with her young one and husband and moving back to Seattle where her family lives. She spoke about the delight in seeing her kid playing with her cousins…acknowledging it would be a good transition. We wish her well. It was comforting being amongst friends and community.

A friend stopped to chat while at our rabbi’s celebration. She put aside her own angst while her husband is dying, one of life’s crueler transitions. She took a break to be among friends. Always wise, my friend who has grown kids of her own tried to help me while I was telling her about my concerns of the unknown journey that lies ahead for my son. She assured me that all would fall into place, another growing opportunity filled with the ups and downs of the hills of life. The kids find their own way, meeting new friends and expanding their horizons…he’ll be fine.

I still worry about some of his friends, where in my last blog I lamented how many of the top students are feeling badly that due to the extreme competition, these brilliant students didn’t make it into the colleges they expected. They are depressed and don’t know how to handle the disappointment. Then of course, there are also the kids who just struggle, or have physical challenges, oey, we have been so blessed.

I thought it kind when family and friends complimented us also on a job well done. It’s true, we put every ounce of love and attention into our boy. My husband and I know in our hearts that although we’re sure along the way we made mistakes (like perhaps maybe he should have been required to do more around the house, YES!), we did our best. We feel that raising our son has been one of the best times of our life…from Mommy and Me at temple to helping in the classroom, fieldtrips, Cub Scouts, little league, family trips, the list goes on and on. We were never sure who was having more fun.

Yet now those times are over. It’s time to move on for all of us. For me, I too will have a new exciting life as I complete the last throws of finalizing my book. I thought I just finished my cover…we’ll see, discussions are continuing. I’m finalizing the edits and thankfully it hasn’t been too painful a process, after all I know everything I do has to be trimmed, whether it’s writing, talking or around my waist : ) Then there’s seeing the published product, I can’t wait until this birthing process will be complete and “Finding Peace in Israel, A Mother’s Tale of Terror & Transformation” will finally be born!

As for my husband, well I think the transition will be a bit rough. Lucky for my son, my husband and he are best friends…they both have accrued all of those benefits. The thought of him leaving in my husband’s eyes, well let’s just say I’m putting away all sharp objects around the house, and yes, thankfully I’m mostly joking. There’s pride and some tears around home when my son’s off doing something…always cognizant that we can’t make him feel guilty he’s going away, it’s healthy and what’s supposed to happen. We’re about to have an “empty nest,” and I’m excited to see where we will fly to…perhaps a romantic get-away and more traveling adventures. Hopefully our son will still want to join us occasionally during school breaks.

For my son’s graduation, I sat down and wrote him a love letter and decided to share part of that with you. What would I tell the other graduates too if I had the opportunity…of course getting a teenager to listen well, you know…sometimes they’re more willing to listen as long as someone other than their parents are saying it so here goes…

Dear Graduates,

Happy Graduation! I’d like to take time to share some thoughts with you as you move on to the next exciting phase of your life.

If you’ve gotten into one of those great colleges you applied for, wonderful! If not, DON’T DISPAIR! You have accomplished amazing things, have tremendous energy, drive and hopefully are kind, an even more important quality. All of these characteristics will take you a long way in life.

If you got into the school of your dreams, that’s terrific. If not, that’s also a life lesson. If you haven’t had much experience with disappointment, that’s a blessing. It’s hard, but also another important teaching opportunity. Sometimes life causes us to switch paths or try even harder. You must believe it was what was supposed to happen.

If you are a student who has struggled throughout, great job! You know what it takes to survive struggles. Kudos to you for your fortitude, it will serve you well in life. Everyone has difficult times and for those who learn to take the next step and the next one after anyway, that skill will help you throughout your life. Good that you learned it early.

Life always brings unexpected twists and turns. Try to be open to whatever comes your way…even what at times seems like closed doors or failures. I’ve learned along the way that the true definition to F.A.I.L. is first attempt at learning. Everything in life that comes your way, good and bad, is for a reason. It’s hard to predict at your age exactly what you will want to do as an adult.

I don’t know if what you think you want to do now will be your eventual path, enjoy the journey.

If something happens that’s good, celebrate. If at the moment you think it is bad, look closely at it. Life is trying to tell you something. Do you have lessons that you have to learn? Something about yourself you have to change? The only constant in life is change. Try to learn to embrace it.

Most important, do what you love as a profession and throughout all the choices of your life whenever possible. If you follow your passion, that is perfect! BRAVO!

If you do, unexpected doors will open for you. I’ve lived this, and know it to be true. I wasn’t raised to believe that way. I went to the “school of hard knocks,” learned my lessons, and studied hard from incredible teachers many of whom I sought out as an adult. Always be a student.

Some of you have had great parents. Be thankful. You have been blessed. Tell them. They deserve to hear it from you, if you haven’t already : )

Most people you meet in life will not have had that same benefit, give them your kindness and help them. Since that realization may not have been part of your world and the experience of many of your friends, this may not seem true. Unfortunately, you will find that sadly it is. The majority of people are hurting inside even though they may not show it on the outside, the scars can be deep inside them, sometimes not even known to themselves. BE KIND AND PATIENT.

If you unfortunately haven’t had picture perfect parents, that’s alright, and it’s time to continue to roll up your sleeves and work hard on yourself. No matter who you are, we always have things we need to improve about ourselves to become the best me we can be. Sometimes it just takes more work to unlearn what we’re used to. Work hard, study healthy habits and actions and imitate them until they become a natural part of who you are. That’s the spirit! I know, I’ve been there and done that, you can too!

Even when you have had all of the benefits of life, sadness and life’s challenges just happen. There will be obstacles to face. But I know you have immense gifts that will equip you to face them.

I believe the phase of your life with love interests has only begun. Please be aware, it is a hilly path filled with ups and downs. EVERYONE, has had their heart broken, most many, many times. I waited so long and dated so many men that there was a song at one time called “Another One Bites the Dust,” don’t remember what it really was about, but that’s what my family used to sing when another break-up occurred. It’s just what happens.

I’d meet someone and sometimes they were interested, sometimes not. Sometimes they were interested, and I wasn’t. Then sometimes you both are interested and it still doesn’t work out. The truth is the first part of a relationship is attraction. Its life’s way of making everything exciting and lovey dovey so you will want to face the real work.

The truth is there is always hard work to make any relationship healthy…even the one with yourself. We are attracted to people that we are “familiar” with either because that’s a good thing, they show us characteristics that we enjoy, or subconsciously because it’s something we are familiar with and need to work on.

And so the story begins. Choose wisely. Remember you have incredible gifts to offer someone, be sure they deserve you and can handle the work that it takes to have a healthy relationship. But allow for both of you to make mistakes. It’s really hard to grow ourselves, which is the most important part of life. Make sure the partner you choose is willing to do the same.

One thing that I know will make your life easier to take is to learn to meditate. Look at the science of meditation, it’s proven to relieve stress, something that everyone struggles with. I think it’s so important and I learned with the Deepak Chopra and Oprah 21-day Meditation Challenges. One of my favorites is “Become What You Believe.” We all do become what we believe about ourselves. Pay close attention to what that is and if there’s something you don’t like, do the work to change it. What Deepak and Oprah teach in the couple of minutes before the meditation are what I believe are important life lessons.

You also can get a meditation application called Insight Timer for free with all types of meditations, some guided, others just pleasant music. What’s very important is taking time to be with yourself and think in the stillness of your mind.

Remember life only happens in the present. Think about it. The past is gone and there’s nothing you can do about it. The future hasn’t happened yet. Make the most about the present. Don’t torture yourself with worry, it’s merely a negative projection of what ugly things might happen in the future. It’s a waste of time, DON’T, if you can stop yourself. It does no good, but does harm to your psyche. Don’t allow yourself to abuse yourself nor waste your time.

If you do on occasion, forgive yourself. You are human. You will make mistakes. Everyone does. Forgive yourself, make apologies if necessary, and move on. Beating yourself up over it is another waste of time and does no one any good and can harm you. PLEASE DON’T.

College will be a life-changing experience for you because of new encounters and simply because you are getting older and maturing. Enjoy! Life is an adventure, take the bull by the horns and ride! It can be challenging, exciting, devastating and fantastic. It’s all as it should be. Be open to what’s around the next corner, you never know what can happen. What you will like or not, is not always predictable, as long as it’s legal, try it : )

And yes, as if you don’t already know, PLEASE NO DRUGS. I know although I’m usually a very open person, in this regard I am very conservative with no apologies. As a mom, I feel the need to say it. I don’t care that weed is legal today. It alters your mind, something that needs to be honored and you never know how you will react, everyone is different. If you were to take something offered not from a medical facility, how do you really know what’s in it? There are countless horror stories of lives ruined by trying one little puff or pill. It could be fatal or a life-changing mistake with significant, negative ramifications. DON’T!

Finally, life happens in somewhat predictable phases. You can study them if you’d like to know what’s next. At this time of my life, I can honestly say life is great. I understand myself so much more and I still can do important things and have a whole new life to look forward to just as you have.

So in conclusion, you’ve done a fantastic job, achieved great accomplishments and I hope your college days and beyond are filled with love and learning. You should be very proud of yourself! The world is your open book, be sure you fill the pages with what you love to do and we all will reap the rewards from your efforts…

With All My Love,

As always, I invite you to Join Me On My Journey…

Penny S. Tee

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