It's graduation season. If you are a permanent resident of a college town, chances are you have a love/hate relationship with graduation weekend.
I love that graduates move on to paying jobs. I love that graduates' parents (hopefully) finish paying college tuition. I love that professors' workloads decrease. And I love that my fellow community members can finally find parking spots fewer than 12 blocks from their favorite downtown restaurants.
On the flip side, I hate that for the 50+ hours between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, traffic stands still. Every hotel room is booked. Every restaurant is packed. Pizza delivery takes two hours. But worse than all that, I hate saying good-bye to friends - professors, graduate students, and undergrads - who are moving on. I'm happy for them, don't get me wrong. But good-byes are always tough. I get all choked up and flustered, and as a result I end up never saying what I want to say.
And so now, for those of you who are moving on this weekend, and for those of you who've previously moved on and to whom I never said "good-bye" or "good luck" or "congratulations" or "I'll miss you" or "I love you", here are a few words of wisdom from some of our country's most famous and intelligent women who clearly knew - better than I - the right things to say and said them at the right times.
"I urge you: please don't settle for happiness. It's not good enough. Of course, you deserve it, but if that's all you have in mind, happiness, I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness - free of a steady commitment to social justice - that's more than a barren life; it's a trivial one."
~ Toni Morrison, Rutgers University, 2011
"Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you failed by default."
~ J.K. Rowling, Harvard University, 2008
"The first rule of improvisation is agree. Always agree and say yes. When you're improvising a scene, this means that you're always required to agree with whatever your partner has created...Now obviously, in real life you're not always going to agree with everything another person says. I mean, that would be ridiculous. But the thing about the rule of agreement, I think, is that it teaches you the second part of it, which is to respect what your partner has created...I think that leads you to a great open-minded starting place. To start with a yes in all your interactions and then see where that takes you."
~ Tina Fey, Fieldstone High School, 2008
"Life is like one big Mardi Gras, but instead of showing your boobs, show people your brain. And if they like what they see, you'll have more beads that you'll know what to do with. And you'll be drink most of the time."
~ Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University, 2009
"I can assure you that awards have very little bearing on my own personal happiness - my own sense of well-being and purpose in the world. That comes from studying the world feelingly, with empathy in my work. It comes from staying alert and alive and involved in the lives of the people that I love and the people in the wider world who need my help. No matter what you see me or hear me saying when I'm on your TV, holding a statuette and spewing - that's acting. Being a celebrity has taught me to hide, but being an actor has opened my soul...You know, you don't have to be famous. You just have to make your mother and father proud of you."
~ Meryl Streep, Barnard College, 2010