I'm a bit of a dork, but I love graduation season.
I tear up at montages on the news of commencement speakers serving up their most sage nuggets of advice to senior classes. I smile at stuffed animals at Hallmark dressed in caps and gowns. And I gravitate toward Dr. Seuss-type guides empowering grads on their future journeys. I find grad season synonymous with hope and possibility. After all, graduation is the time when students are given a fresh start at life, eager and anxious to take on the world. And whether you're the class of 2014 or you graduated—ahem—a few years back, it's a great time to reenergize, take stock of all you have, and dream big.
With that, Jewish grads, here are 10 tips for the road ahead…Mazel tov!
1) Catch more flies with honey.
That Russian Jewish proverb whispered to me by my mother throughout my life and passed down from her mother and her mother's mother applies to everyone we encounter in life. That includes everyone from the major players in our lives to the people making cameo appearances, like our morning barista or the person who sweeps the sidewalks. Try to keep in mind that we're all just striving to leave our imprint on the world, to know that the world is a better place because we're
2) Figure out what you want.
I recently attended TribeFest, a Jewish Federations of North America-sponsored conference of Jewish Gen X and Yers, where we were asked to partner up with someone we'd never met before. Each partner was asked to share with the other answers to two questions: What do we want most in life? And what are the obstacles standing in the way to us getting that thing we want? We each had two minutes to share our responses, and the other person could only listen, rather than chime in with questions or comments. What I loved about this assignment is we were asked to cut through all the noise and get to the heart of what we really want out of life. There are a lot of distractions and naysayers in the world that keep us from doing the things we want in life and the things we know to be right. Go with your gut—what you truly feel in your bones.
3) Be a little Zen.
Meditation is hot these days and I can see why. We're all trying to find that perfect job, to go on that perfect JDate, or to raise that perfect Jewish baby. But you know what? It ain't easy. So let's just all breathe, shall we? You can find your nice Jewish husband tomorrow.
4) Repair the world.
Do your part to mend our very broken world. That could be by serving meals at the JUF Uptown Cafe, doing service work in Africa, or making a gift to a good cause like—I don't know—JUF.
5) Be present.
Put this column down. And put your phone down. Whomever you're texting will still be there when you get back. Now, feel the ground under your feet, listen to the birds chirping, smell the aroma of the nearby pancake house wafting through the air. Don't think about your regrets of the past or your 120-point plan for the future. Just for a second—be in the moment.
6) Find your people.
I'll admit it. It took me a long time to get that not everyone in the whole wide world is going to like me, and that's okay. You just have to surround yourself with people—that includes your friends, mentors, and potential significant others—who make you feel like the best version of yourself, who share your same values and your same weird sense of humor. The people who really get you.
7) Go down your own Jewish path.
We're all on our own Jewish journey. There are so many ways to strengthen our Jewish identity—culturally, spiritually, and religiously—and no two Jewish paths are exactly the same. Go to shul, host a Shabbat meal, watch a Seth Rogen movie, bake challah, or all of the above. Even along our own path, the road will wind. I'm a different Jew now than I was when I was a kid or even last year. And I won't be the same next year either. We're evolving in all kinds of ways, and our Jewish path is part of that evolution.
8) Recognize how good we've got it.
Every day we're alive is a good day. That's why Jews say a blessing every morning, "Modeh Ani," where we thank God for sustaining us through the night. Don't forget that there is always someone out there who has it worse than you, and to appreciate all the blessings in life.
9) Screw up every now and then.
We're all fixer-uppers and hopefully morphing into the best versions of ourselves all the time. We make a whole lot of mistakes as we walk through life, which is how we learn. As the just-passed famed and wise poet Maya Angelou once said—"When you know better, you do better." So don't be too hard on yourself for something you did in the past. It's what you do today that counts.
10) Tell the people in your life what they mean to you.
Why must it take a near-death experience or dramatic roadblock in our lives to take stock of our friends and family? Drop a note or have lunch with the people you care about, and tell them why they matter to you.