"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
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.
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."
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.
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
offered the new graduates four rules for be coming, as she put it,
"rich and famous":
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.
your dues. Be prepared to learn new skills, stay open and
flexible, and keep educating yourself.
be afraid to fail, and preferably fail early.
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."