I was fortunate enough to catch commencement exercises at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely and lucky enough to catch the graduation exercises on Saturday at Meeker High School.
(Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict kept me away from the Rangely High School graduation, but I look forward to that event next spring.)
Anyway, I always listen closely to the commencement speakers in hopes that they will impart little pearls of wisdom along the way and I am not usually disappointed. But one “speech,” if you want to call it that, which really caught my ear was given by Becca Nielsen, also dubbed “Mother Freedom” by many in the Meeker Class of 2013 at the MHS Commencement on Saturday.
Nielsen was designated to give the commencement address, but it turned into more of an interaction with the senior class, and was one of the more riveting “talks” I have ever heard at a high school graduation.
Nielsen just walked around, she told humorous stories about a couple of the seniors and she had fun with graduating twins Alex and Scott Smith.
But she told the seniors that “passion” plays a major role in what comes next after high school. Nielsen didn’t dig into what that passion is, what it should be and the role it plays.
But I am here to carry it a bit farther.
I believe passion is the key to a happy future. I believe it is the body and soul of what makes a person a happy success at whatever is they will do in life.
No, not every graduate has that passion by the time they graduate.
Some students need time to get out and breathe a little bit.
Unfortunately, some students will do what Mom and Dad want them to do — not what they want to do.
Some students will wander for years trying to discover what it is that they “want to do when they grow up.”
Within reason, that shouldn’t be a problem. A few years to look around, do the military thing, work in the oil or gas fields, join the Peace Corps (yes, it does still exist), and follow whatever feels right is probably the right path for now.
But when you discover what it is that rocks your boat, then let it rock your boat to overload.
After high school, you have roughly 50 years of work ahead of you before you get to enjoy the benefits of retirement. A few years less if you succeed at a lucrative profession.
But nothing hits me worse than the thought of 50 years doing something you don’t really like “just because it pays the bills.”
I’m not here to tell you to be a doctor. I’m not here to tell you to become a lawyer. I’m not here to tell you to become an IT expert. Those are all excellent paying jobs and in high demand.
I am here to tell you that if you become a doctor, a butcher, a mechanic, a journalist, a typist, a rocket scientist, a medical researcher, an ambulance driver or a dishwasher in a restaurant, then, darn it, be the best one you can be.
Find something you enjoy. Really enjoy.
Gordon Ramsey can tell you, Bobby Flay knows, and even Rachel Ray can confirm it.
Anthony Bourdain knows. Andrew Zimmern knows. Bob Villa knows too.
They all know that to succeed in life is to do what you want to do and to do it well.
Have a passion for it.
Be a carpenter, a plumber, a shoe repair man. Be a stay-at-home mother or father. Volunteer at a hospice or change bed pans in a hospital.
But do it because you want to, because it makes you happy and because you have a passion for learning all there is to learn about any job.
Too often I have seen corporate stiffs, secretaries, retail sales men and women, teachers, welders, young farmers and ranchers doing certain things because someone else expected them to do it. Too often have I seen really unhappy folks who are not leading an enjoyable, fulfilling life because they didn’t take or have the time to find out where their passion really was.
Some of you graduating seniors may already know what your passion is. My guess is that the majority of this year’s graduates and still some graduates of recent years don’t yet know what that passion is.
Keep looking until you find that passion. When you find it, jump in with both hands and both feet. Just be the best you can be at whatever you do.
You will be happy, you will be fulfilled, others will know you for doing your best and many of those around you — even those who may make more money — will be envious.
But you know what? You’re happy! Those around you are happy. You can dig into and live by that passion.
And you can be proud. You are what is called a success!
Driving around on Sunday was proof enough that Colorado’s Free Fishing Day, which was actually the entire weekend, was a big success in this neighborhood.
More than the usual number of persons, both young and old, were visible along the White River and, on the way to Craig, one lake I don’t know the name of and along the Yampa River.
What was really noticeable was the number of families out taking advantage of the free fishing time afforded by the state.
Children were everywhere along the lakes and rivers and nearby were the obvious parents or guardians, all having a great time and enjoying the beautiful weather.
I remember as a young child going fishing with the entire family, and that was a major chore on the parents because all seven kids and mom and dad would get in some good fishing time.
But it was during these times that we learned to get out, enjoy the elements, spend family time together and these times were when learned how to fish.
By the time I was learning to fish, Dad and my oldest brother, Brian, taught me about baiting, casting, catching and cleaning. Mom, when we got back home, taught me how to cook usually what was trout. And learning to cook trout taught me the basics of how to cook other fish.
I applaud Colorado Parks and Wildlife for having the free fishing day. Yes, they lose some revenue, but they build on the future when people, both young and old, might not otherwise go fishing, and the CPW is also looking to the future with more fishermen and women to buy licenses, which helps support the CPW. It’s all a win-win situation with the CPW gaining in the long run and Colorado families gaining through the entire experience.
I hope the fishing was good.
A sense of community often arises when funds are needed. Such a sense has been exercised nationally in the past month with the tornadoes in Oklahoma, the plant explosion in Texas, etc.
But for a community the size of Meeker, it is a remarkable feat to raise enough money to send three Destination Imagination teams to Knoxville, Tenn., to compete in the global DI competition.
It took several thousands of dollars to send those teams to globals, yet the residents of Meeker, some Rangely folks as well and corporate support were there when needed.
Not only is a big thank you due to the volunteers who have worked with the DI teams throughout the year, but a massive bow goes to those who helped send the students to Knoxville.
That is the true meaning of community, and around here that sense is alive and well.