[Mb-hair] Commencement speech made by Pulitzer Prize-Winning author, Anna Quindlen

sherwin sherwin at aceross.com
Fri Jan 21 09:58:38 PST 2005

Commencement speech made by Pulitzer Prize-Winning author, Anna Quindlen.

"I am a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know.

Don't ever  confuse  the  two - your life and your work. You will walk out
of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will
be hundreds  of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will
be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your  particular
life,  your  entire life. Not just your life at a desk or your  life  on a
bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but
the life of your heart. Not just your bank account but your soul.
People  don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to
write  a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a
winter  night,  or  when  you're  sad,  or broke, or lonely, or when you've
gotten back the test results and they're not so good.

I'm  a  good  mother  to  three  children.  I  have  tried  never to let my
profession  stand  in  the way of being a good parent.

I no longer consider myself  the  centre of the universe.

I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

I am  a  good  friend  to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows
mean what  they  say. 

I am a good friend to friends and they are to me. Without them,  there
would  be  nothing  to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard

I would be rotten or at best mediocre at my job, if all these other things
were not true.

So here's what I wanted to tell you today:

Get  a  life.  A  real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion,
bigger  paycheck,  the  larger  house.

Do you think you'd care so very much about  these  things if you blew an
aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?

Get  a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a
breeze  over seaside  heights,  a  life  in which you stop and watch how a
red-tailed  hawk  circles  over  the  water  or  the way a baby scowls with
concentration  when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first

Get a  life in which you are not alone.

Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not
leisure, it is work.

Pick  up  the phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Get a life in which you
are  generous.  And  realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you
have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness
that you want to spread it around. 

Take money  you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a
soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister.

All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then doing well
will never be enough.

It  is  so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, our minutes. It is
so easy to take for granted the colour of our kids' eyes, the way the melody
in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy
to  exist  instead  of  living.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned that  it is not a dress
rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I  learned  to look
at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back  because  I
believed in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to do that,  in  part,
by  telling  others what I learned. By telling them this: Consider the
lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the  backyard
with  the  sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life  as  a
terminal  illness,  because  if  you  do,  you  will  live it."

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