Barbara Fish Counselling Services ... helping your life work

Class of 2012

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 8, Issue 6

June, 2012

As graduation ceremonies go, the one I attended last week was pretty typical. There were the usual congratulatory speeches, filled with words of motivation and inspiration. There were the common catchphrases describing how the graduating class was about to ‘embark on an incredible journey,’ ‘do something meaningful,’ ‘leave their mark,’ and ‘create a better world.’ As I surveyed the 900 faces about to graduate (one of 13 graduating classes over the span of a week), I wondered how they felt about meeting those challenges. Were they ready to take on and conquer the world? Did they know what mark they wanted to make? Did they have a sense of how they were going to change the world? Or were they feeling scared and anxious about how the future might unfold? With possibly 12,000 students graduating this week from this university alone, were they worried about whether there would even be a job for them after all their hard work?

Of the hundreds of students that I have counselled over the past twenty-four years, a large number of them have shared their fears of the future and pressures they have felt from parents, teachers and themselves to make the right choices, take the right courses, and find the right job. And often their idea of the right job is one that appears to be the most secure and stable for the day. But as I have often told them, choosing a job that’s safe but not the right fit may ultimately backfire. If they are not being true to themselves and what makes them happy, then there will be little satisfaction in that job or in oneself.

A similar sentiment was expressed, albeit in a much more humourous and entertaining way, in a wonderful speech offered by William J.S. Boyle, the honourary recipient of a Doctor of Laws degree that day. As the Chief Executive Officer of Harbourfront Centre, he is responsible for programming more than 4,000 events each year over a ten-acre waterfront site, and has received the Order of Canada, amongst other awards for his many years of creative innovation and dedicated service. He talked about the irony of receiving a Doctor of Laws degree after having attended only one day of law school more than 40 years ago, and realizing from that brief glimpse, that law school was not for him. Instead, he followed his heart, graduated with a Masters in English literature and the rest, as they say, is history. His words were different from the ones that went before him. He didn’t talk about changing the world, but simply being true to oneself. He cautioned graduates about making long-term plans and suggested that if they had already made any, to delete them. Instead he encouraged them to pooh-pooh the naysayers, believe in themselves and their dreams, and ‘persist, persist, persist.’

As the class of 2012 proceeds into the days, months and years of the future, I wish you well. For the lucky ones who know what you want and are willing to go after it, I congratulate you. For those who know but are fearful about following your dreams because of the current economic climate, I encourage you to trust yourselves and let the rest work itself out on its own. For those who want to take on the world and make it a better place, I say ‘bravo.’ For those who are feeling confused and fearful, I invite you to come in and talk. And to my beautiful and brilliant daughter, Jane, who graduated with honours last week, I couldn't be more proud.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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