Holly Richardson: Every graduation season brings a variety of emotions

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young University Graduates make their way across the pedestrian bridge to the Marriott Center for the 144th BYU Commencement, Thursday, April 25, 2019.

‘Tis the season. Graduation season, that is. Every graduation season can bring a variety of emotions — joy, sadness, relief, uncertainty — maybe even regret for what might have been.

Last week, Brigham Young University graduates and audience members cheered and applauded when political science valedictorian Matthew Easton publicly announced: “I am not broken. I am proud to be a gay son of God.”

On Thursday, Mayor Brent Taylor received a posthumous Ph.D. in political science at the University of Utah and received a standing ovation.

Lauren McCluskey should have been walking with her graduating class as well.

Lauren’s mother, Jill, tweeted:

“4 years ago, Lauren graduated with honors from high school. Today she was supposed to graduate with honors from @UUtah. She will watching from heaven as her friends go through the ceremony. #SheWasLoved #CampusSafety #NeverForget”

For most, though, college graduation is a time of celebration. It may have been the “expected path” for high school seniors who graduated four years ago, or it may have been a life-long dream for a non-traditional student who earned their degree in mid-life (or later). Among the graduates from Southern Utah University this week, for example, the age range for grads is 17-66.

For some impressive and dedicated individuals, they are the first generation of their family to graduate from college. #FirstGen students face additional hurdles on their journey: How do you navigate funding options? What is campus life like? What are those big words everyone is using? #FirstGen students are more likely to work full-time and go to school part-time, making the process of earning a degree a drawn-out one. Hats off to them!

With that, how can I resist some advice to this year’s college grads?

Keep your priorities straight. Clayton Christensen, in his book “How will you measure your life,” reminds us that in a life filled with constant demands, we need to decide in advance how we allocate our resources of time and energy. “The trap many people fall into is to allocate their time to whoever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward. That’s a dangerous way to build a strategy.”

Stay connected. We are neurologically hard-wired for connection. Being and staying connected to loved ones in our lives is critical for our emotional well-being. “Connecting” to a career — or worse, an addition, will never bring lasting happiness.

• Practice gratitude. It will keep you grounded and see you through the good times, the crappy times and the downright horrible times that make up life. And, as a college graduate, you will always have something to be grateful for.

• Travel. Whether for work or for fun (or both!), travel can expand your horizons, if you let it. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,” said St. Augustine. Immerse yourself in the experience.

• Avoid contempt. Disagreement is part of life. Contempt does not have to be. Learn to respect the views of those who see life through a different lens. Arthur Brooks, in his new book “Love Your Enemies,” writes about the damage done by the “outrage industrial complex.” Don’t be part of that toxicity.

• Live wholeheartedly. Dr. Brené Brown, in her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are,” lists 10 traits to cultivate for wholehearted living: authenticity, self-compassion, resilience, gratitude and joy, intuition and trusting faith, creativity, play, calm, meaningful work and laughter.

• Keep learning. Poet Mary Oliver famously asked: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The adventure of a lifetime is discovering that answer, again and again and again.

| Courtesy Holly Richardson, op-ed mug.

Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, is excited to be celebrating her son’s graduation from Southern Utah University. Woot!