My belief is that even when you’re dispirited you have to get out there and feign optimism until the real thing kicks in, so I’ve been trying to stay engaged and accumulate positive experiences even when I’d rather hide. This morning I went to the Dunn Middle School graduation, and I felt a bit precarious at first, but it turned out to be a good tonic. These kids were the last of my students, having been in sixth grade when I left, and it was astonishing to see how much they had matured in the course of two years. (I sure hope I haven’t undergone the equivalent in aging.) One by one they stood at the podium to speak on the theme of ‘This I Believe’, offering their 8th grade wisdom and philosophies of life: Embrace accidents. Take risks. Laugh often. Don't give up. Never forget how lucky we are.
A couple of them spoke about hardships they had known – the divorces of parents; not fitting in; even, in one case, battling cancer – and how things had somehow worked out for the best and these experiences had made them stronger. They talked about their passions, from music to baseball to spending time with friends, and they talked about their dreams, and some of them cried afterwards, acutely aware that an era had just ended. But I was struck by their joy and well-being, these kids upon whom fortune has smiled, and I was filled with hope that they would shine their little light beams bright and go on to do good things.
My favorite part of the ceremony, though, was Marc’s traditional ‘science experiment’ speech in which he demonstrates a law of science which then becomes a metaphor for living life. The kids like it best when he blows something up, but today was a less explosive presentation, an experiment in balance involving a broom and a walking stick. He demonstrated first how to balance each of these objects horizontally by sliding his fingers along, correcting and overcorrecting, until the center of gravity was reached. He also balanced the broom on one end, and balanced it again with the addition of a weight, first high and then low, subtly correcting and counter-correcting whenever the broom began to fall. Finding the balance was a dynamic thing, and it was easier to balance when the weight was placed high.
It’s like life and growing up, said Marc. If you keep your problems and worry too close all the time, and your goals and expectations too low, you can’t maneuver. You need some space. Expect a lot, aim high, but adjust your balance when you have to -- that’s how it works.
There you stood on the edge of your feather
expecting to fly.
Maybe they would.
As for me, I understood in scientific terms why I’ve been feeling so wobbly: I’m adjusting my balance. I need a little space to maneuver, and I need a little time, and I may feel like I am falling now and then, but I’ll get there.