ICQ -- 2001/No. 3
Time Passages: Commencement 2001


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"You’ve been in a nice, protected, somewhat isolated community for four years. You’ve formed many bonds. It’s both exciting and a little scary to leave that protective shell."

--- Gail Sheehy

Speaking of passages, the special Commencement guest chosen by the senior class was Gail Sheehy. Sheehy, whose pioneering 1976 book Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life, has been listed as one of the 10 most influential books of our time, told the graduates that by the time they had entered college, she’d had to update the original by writing New Passages.

"There’s a revolution in the adult life cycle," she said. "People are taking longer to grow up and much, much longer to grow old. We’re experiencing the end of a predictable kind of life."

Sheehy mapped some of life’s passages --- "through the ‘tryout’ 20s into the turbulent 30s and the flourishing 40s, and then the great passage through the 50s and into a second adulthood" --- comparing the stages to the way a lobster sheds its protective but confining shell. Though the process leaves the creature vulnerable, it also opens the way to fresh possibilities.

"This is where most of you are now," Sheehy said. "You’ve been in a nice, protected, somewhat isolated community for four years. You’ve formed many bonds. It’s both exciting and a little scary to leave that protective shell, but . . . these periods of disruption are not only inevitable, they’re desirable --- because they are growth."

Sheehy offered the new graduates four rules for be coming, as she put it, "rich and famous":

  • Use your 20s to try everything you can. Reserve the absolute right to change, because a lot of what people learn in their 20s is what not to do.
  • Pay your dues. Be prepared to learn new skills, stay open and flexible, and keep educating yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail, and preferably fail early.
  • Don’t be afraid to dream. "Oftentimes people will tell you no. They’ll say you’re not good enough. They’ll say you’re too short or too thin or too slow or too nice. They’ll tell you a thousand times until the nos become meaningless. They will tell you no, and you will tell them yes."
 
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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 20. Nov. 2001