This is for the majority of you. Those in the “middle of the pack.”
Fifty-four years ago I stood where you stand today. I listened as school officials heaped praise upon those of my classmates whose scholastic achievements were stellar. I was not envious of them, but the way the speakers spoke highly of them, calling them “our future,” as if only they would be the leaders of the future, I felt insignificant; actually, I subconsciously believed my future had already been cast in stone: that of being a loser in life.
Without realizing it, I strove diligently to fulfill that low expectation of me that I had convinced myself society had shown me was my destiny. More so, I allowed life to dictate the terms, the “dog wagging the tail” syndrome. Whatever took place in my life was because that was how it “was meant to be.”
Yet somewhere deep inside, a part of me rebelled, refusing to accept what I had believed had been “pre-ordained.” My epiphany came when I was at my lowest. I was out of work and had been for several weeks. I wasn’t eligible for unemployment insurance for reasons too complicated to go into. It was winter. In addition to my wife, our four-year-old daughter, her much older sister and that sister’s baby daughter were all living in the same household.
Earlier that day I had been turned away again from a job in a furniture factory. I was desperate. I begged the person in HR to please just let me sweep the floor all day, free of charge. I just needed something to do, to be active, to prove to myself I had worth. To this day I remember the pained expression on her face as she could not accommodate that request.
That evening a phone call came in from the utility company, threatening to turn off the power (this was before laws and regulations prohibited this during extreme weather conditions). I lost it. In front of my family I broke down, crying, begging for a reprieve. I blurted out all that had befallen. I was humiliated. Fortunately, not only did the utility company keep the power on, the representative put me in touch with an agency that could help, which it did.
Soon after I realized I had worth, and I realized I had worth all along. So, what do my trials and tribulations mean to you? Many of you are like me. You may not think it, as the process of self-discovery is yet to unfold. Many of you may end up struggling to discover and determine your destiny. You will find yourself at the “mercy of the winds,” carried in whatever direction these blow.
Don’t let these deter you. Dig within yourself and forge your “anchor” in life, and cast it. Just because you might not have excelled academically, or perhaps even in athletics, or popularity, it doesn’t mean you don’t have worth. You do.
Yes, it took me a long time to realize myself, and for many of you, it will be the same. Regardless, keep at it. And just one last thing: Many of those who were praised to the hills didn’t make much of their lives leaving school. So, remember, there’s hope.