My acronymitis has turned into a full-blown case of white collar blues, so reading a bunch of commencement speeches from American colleges has left me feeling both inspired and sad. They're mostly from thinkers, talkers, writers, artists who tell their own stories of youthful aspiration, post-graduate let-down, career cul-de-sac, and triumphal creative emergence, and end with a stirring carpe diem. I'm encouraged by a persistent narrative of figuring out who you are, how you might bring your “deep gladness” to meet “the world’s deep hunger” (Frederick Buechner), how far passion can take you on the road to an authentic life, but at the same time I don't think I'm very far into that narrative yet. I'm post-post-graduate; ill-fitted and ill-at-ease, grateful for the money, doubtful of the value, wanting something much, much more, not quite knowing what it is. Perhaps Maya Angelou can help. If you can forget that the dawn she refers to is Bill Clinton's inauguration, her poem is another stirring call to knowing the who, and the what, and the why, and the how all at once.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.