Best Advice I’ve Ever Seen

This is a speech by Anna Quindlen, Pulitzer prize winning author, at a graduation
ceremony at American University., where she was awarded an honorary PhD.
“I’m 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 out there with your same degree: there will be thousands
 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 accounts but also 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 cold comfort on a winter’s night, or
when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve received your test
results and they’re not so good. 
Here is my resume:
I am a good mother to three children.
I have tried never to let my work 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 my friends and they to me. Without them, there would
be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out.
But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at
best mediocre at my job if those other things were not true.  You cannot be really
first rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So here’s what I wanted to tell you today:
Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the
 bigger pay cheque, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much
 about those things if you blew an aneurysm this 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 at the seaside, 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 sweet with her thumb and
 first finger.
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 beer 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, and
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 to live.  I learned to live many
years ago. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned
that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you
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 had learned. By telling them this:
Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. Read in
the back yard 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 with joy and passion as it ought to be lived.”


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2 Responses to “Best Advice I’ve Ever Seen”

  1. stacibo Says:

    Thank you for this. I love it. I too live with the intention that life is about the journey and not the end result. It’s a constant practice to remember this. I also love the ultimate test of meaning–will this matter when I am on my death bed? Helps bring perspective. I will enjoy savoring this post. Thanks again. Btw, good luck on your new blog!

  2. SanityFound Says:

    I have read this before and no matter how many times I re-read it inspires me more and more! Thanks for sharing it, I had forgotten it when I needed it most, now! A

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