Monday, July 9, 2007

Get A Life........a real life

This was a speech made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anna Quindlen at the graduation ceremony of an American university where she was awarded an Honorary PhD. It resonated so profoundly for me, particularly within this period that members of the WOW 2007 team are 'testing the waters' in the world of work. This reminds us not to live to work but to work to live.
"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 them 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 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 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 risesagain. 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 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 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".


Susan Arthur said...

Thanks for sharing this with us Ijeoma. When you get wrapped up in work it's easy to forget to have a 'real' life.... I was reminded today about the FISH philosophy as I was telling a colleague about it.

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

Yes, the Pike Fish Place is a great example of not taking life too seriously and making work fun. We only have one life to live after all. Thanks Susan for always commenting on my posts.

Susan Arthur said...

after a long day today I was walking to the bathroom and saw the beautiful sunset out the window... and remembered to stop for a moment and appreciate it rather than focusing only on how tired I was... so thanks for this post to remind us

Susan Mwangi said...

Thanks Ijeoma for the reminding us to prioritise. I am notorious for "biting huge chunks" of urgent stuff (which often leaves me grappling with the ‘too-many-tasks-too-little-time’ issues). Then, in order to sort this out, I often “steal time from my relationships and ‘me-time’”.
Fortunately, I am re-learning the right stuff… thank you.

Adam N. Mukendi said...

Hey Ije,
Thanks for this. I have sent it to some few friends. The key-words here are Learn and be Happy. Everyday this is my preocupation; find with who I will lough and have fun. If you do this you will never look older. The secret of keeping younger when you are ageing is to find joy in everything. The bible says; rejoice, rejoice in the Lord. In everything there is subject to rejoice off for children of God. Actually people make plans for going to Gym. They want to keep their bodies younger and strong. But i truth, the strengh of your body comes from your spirit. Those who are positive minded, they always look younger even if they are not registered at a Gym. I am not neglecting the necessity of physical exercices...they are just secondary.
Thanks because after internship I will need a well payed Job which will give be enought to invest and have my spare time to my hobbies.
Wish you the same.

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

Thanks Susan x 2, Adam. I thought it important to share these words and learned experience with everyone. Life is not one-dimensional it is so much more than what is in front of our eyes. We all need to actively seek to penetrate the depths of life and seperate what is really precious from the trivial.