I recently attended a graduation ceremony at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Although I’ve known quite a few people who attended Madtown’s prestigious institution, this was my first UW graduation to witness. The commencement speaker was Carol Bartz, former CEO and president of Autodesk and Yahoo! And while I was distracted by my texts to the celebrated […]

I recently attended a graduation ceremony at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Although I’ve known quite a few people who attended Madtown’s prestigious institution, this was my first UW graduation to witness. The commencement speaker was Carol Bartz, former CEO and president of Autodesk and Yahoo! And while I was distracted by my texts to the celebrated graduate in her cap and gown, I enjoyed Ms. Batrz’s speech. But I would tweak one thing…

In Ms. Bartz’s closing remarks (you know the part where guest speakers begin their countdown list of mottos to live by), she encouraged graduates to “hang out with great people.” As soon as I heard this I thought, “Hmmm…okay. That’s fine. I know this is an old business addiage, but I think it would have been better to say, ‘Be the light that attracts greatness to you.'” Because while it is important, good, right, to surround yourself with great people, it is even more important to realize the greatness of a person is only really known when you first allow yourself to be open with who you are. Once you acknowledge all the stuff that makes you great, and not so great, and carry each as a badge of honor, are you finally able to truly appreciate what makes another person great. I think once you are able to master this way of letting go of any shame, you are in a better place to really see others and become the greatest person you can be. Because let’s face it…aren’t we all drawn to the most confident people in the room? So, why not be that person? Get rid of the limits.

I prefer the company of those who have fallen down, gotten back up, and didn’t make any excuses for falling in the first place. These are the folks that seem more real and genuine. They are the people who treat you the same during the good and bad times. They don’t know the meaning of the word, “bandwagon.” They survived more than one of life’s struggles and continually find ways to not just keep moving, but move forward. I think people who have gone through some of life’s worsts and live to tell about it are not only the greatest people, but also the wisest. All of my Sunday Boyfriends fall in this category. If Ms. Bartz would have said surround yourself with the wisest people, this might have made it a little more inspirational for me.

But I get it. In a world of big tech business, you can be “in,” as Heidi Klum would say, one minute and just as easily pink-slipped the next. So maybe she was trying to say be aware of who is on your team (or as I put it in my Transitional SB post, on your boat) and surround yourself with only the best? Maybe that was it? Or maybe she was saying you will look better in the work world if you surround yourself with the best, most qualified people? I can understand the message of humility here; the wisdom of understanding no matter how great you (think you) are, you’re not irreplaceable. But again, it needed a little something.

Okay, I admit it…I’m finicky about graduation speeches. I have the, maybe unfairly, preconceived notion they should be inspirational. I expect it to be focused more on changing the world, and how that change begins with you, rather than thinking, or relying on others will do it. I think Ms. Bartz missed a golden opportunity to send the message that each graduate in that audience should be an active participant in not only defining what their world-changing contributions should look like, but also never settling for anything less than that definition. And then it hit me…this is the bottom-line pursuit of Sunday Boyfriend: you should define what it is that makes you happy and not settle for anything else. So that’s my message for all the graduates out there.

I should probably be honest here about my graduation finickiness. During the time of my own graduation, I was existing in a foggy-type world and searching for sunshine. My father had passed away, then my grandmother, then I graduated from Marquette…all in two short months. It was too much loss to handle. So I sat in my cap and gown at my college’s (Communications, Journalism and Performing Arts) graduation in a stupor. Trying to be like everyone else at what should be one of the happiest moments in life, I smiled and did my best to stifle all the sadness. Part of me wanted to jump in my car and get as far away as I could. It was that thought of running away from emotions rather than facing them. The other part wanted inspiration. What I got was a distraction and a gift.

The distraction was Chris Farley. Yep, that Chris Farley. He was a surprise speaker addressing graduates of his alma matter. He came out in the motivational speaker garb he made famous on Saturday Night Live and recited a rendition of his infamous, “Van down by the river” monologue. It was the perfect comedic distraction I needed to step out of the sadness…at least for a moment. I can’t say it was inspirational, but I realize his presence wasn’t about inspiration, it was about celebration. Nevertheless, one can’t be reminded enough of the importance of working hard to avoid living in a van down by the river.

The gift was my former texting Sunday Boyfriend. Now if you’ve been reading my blog, you may be asking, “former?” And the answer, although I wish it was different, is yes, former. I threw the ball to him long ago to remedy that distinction, but I am still waiting for a return pitch. Some have told me, including my significant other (who was once rooting for my texting SB to come around and share), to give up on the idea he can open up. But I’m not ready to add Goyte’s song, Somebody That I Used To Know, to his soundtrack just yet. I’m not sure if that makes me an optimist, a romantic, or an idiot. I’ll let you know.

Regardless, the gift, whether he knows this or not, was listening to him play his guitar at the ceremony. His presence on stage, just like Chris Farley’s, was a surprise to me. So in the middle of sitting in my schizophrenic-like, emotional-pulling state, I looked up and saw him sharing his gift in front of a audience. I’m sure what I’m going to share is going to sound wacky, but at that moment, all I could see was him; all I could hear was his music. Even though a mutual friend was singing, and thousands of people were in the room, I was transfixed watching my friend that I loved. A wave of pure happiness fell over me. It was the sweetest, and one of the most eye-opening, powerful reprieves I have ever experienced. It lasted as long as the song. But the effects of what I experienced in that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life. Whether I’m a wacky idiot or not, this is just one of the reasons why I still wear my baseball glove to catch the retun pitch from my texting Sunday Boyfriend.

If you are graduating this year, congratulations! You have achieved a great goal and should be proud. Savor every minute of the celebration and embrace the moment. Go out in the world, share your talents freely, and use what you know to make the world, your world, the kind of place that will be better than how you found it. And, of course, be the light that others, including some great Sunday Boyfriends, are drawn to. You’ll soon discover you are one of those greatest (and happier) people that Ms. Bartz told others to surround themselves with.

As always, stay comfy and be good to yourself and your Sunday Boyfriends.

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