Graduating never ends; follow your ‘True Self’

Congratulations to all the graduates closing one door and walking through another. I recently attended the high school graduation of my eldest grandchild and the college graduation dinner for my godson, both in Virginia. I know that they each worked hard to get to where there were. In educational systems there are requirements to meet, educationally and even socially. Many schools now require that each graduate volunteer for the community. My godson had to intern during two of his summer vacations.

So for years, guidance counselors have been giving them course advisement based on what their skills and likes were. The godson appears to be set with a position at a financial investment firm in South Carolina’s capital city.

He’ll have a position that will somewhat shape him, just as he will put his imprint on the position he holds.

That happens, you know. Any job that we take affects us. We meet a new set of people, we have a new set of expectations and job descriptions, we learn office protocols, and may be given a handbook just like in high school. We want to continue to “grow” ourselves into the people that we want to become, living the best life that we can imagine for ourselves.

Often we hope to get paid for “on the job training.” People who want to become chefs begin working in restaurants. Potential nurses may start as nursing assistants. Hotel managers could start almost anywhere in the hotel as long as they pay attention to what goes on around them. We build a storehouse of knowledge and people connections that we hope will help us get us that one sweet job down the line. Or maybe we find out that the dream job may be more of a nightmare than we thought. Managers have to work 80 hours a week? Or I find out that I can’t get over the gag reflex when I have to clean up vomit, so nursing might be out.

But there are medical assistants, who stay out of the vomit line, yet still help doctors and their patients get well. Pay attention. Ask questions. There will always be people who love to tell their stories with all of the highs and lows to people who will genuinely listen. Just remember that every person has a filter through which they are telling their story, not to mention that after about 24 hours the story begins to change in the memory of the person who experienced it. Did you get both parts of that last sentence? It’s really important. We all see things a little differently. Get a few opinions.

To some people who are taking their first jobs, it may shape them more than the senior citizen who is taking on a part-time job to add a little extra spending money, but for some seniors it may give them a chance to explore something that they’d always wanted to try. I remember meeting a flight attendant who was 67 years old. She’d always wanted to be a flight attendant and travel, and now with kids gone, she could. She had more enthusiasm than some of the 30-somethings I’ve flown with.

So yes, part of graduation is finding our place in the world, but it is also about finding the place of the world within ourselves. The world is not a place that we sacrifice ourselves and our values to. It is a place meant to serve the True Self that we are. That True self is sometimes called the soul, or a person’s essential self. It is the part that is our own unique spiritual essence. People talk about it all the time, but talking won’t teach us what it is.

When we feel peace about our lives and relationships, we’re probably acting in accord with our souls. When we are angry, demanding, bitter, sad, condescending, afraid, etc., we have somehow let the world get the better of us, and it’s time to spend time in prayer, or spiritual connection again. We may go to a person who represents spiritual wisdom to us for help, but it’s an inside job. The “Kingdom of heaven is within,” (Luke 17:21) and Jesus was talking to everyone, certainly not just Christians, because He was talking to the Jews, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs of His day.

It’s hard enough to hear the still small voice of God (1 King 19:12) when we are clear, but when we are emotional, it’s nearly impossible. Somehow, someone has gotten into our heads and it’s time to do some clearing out.

A part of graduating is getting rid of all the old tapes you keep playing in your head about who you are, that may have started a long time ago. Perhaps someone told you were stupid. Seriously, someone probably did if you went to middle school, but if you bought it, then it has filtered who you think you are and must be removed. Find your passion, research all about it, work in the field a bit, and then you become an expert. Things change.

Maybe you were the “class clown” and it might have served you well, but now you want people to take you more seriously. Good. You’re not just with your classmates anymore. New people will be getting to know the new you. Express your truth, be kind, be respectful, honest, etc. Act toward others the way you want to be treated. How you act toward others is the first thing that people will notice about you, after they’ve checked out your appearance.

Sorry, but appearances do speak loudly. Dress as if you respect your body and mind, whatever that means to you. If you want a job at a certain place, take a look around at how the people appear there. It may help. Don’t get all tatted and pierced unless you seriously want a life as an artist of some kind, or it is an honest expression of your culture. I have a beautiful niece who is paying handsomely in pain and dollars to have some tattoos removed. She ended up in banking.

Any body perception we have about ourselves can almost always be changed. I love to look at many celebrities’ high school yearbook pictures. They changed. Actors drop or add 20 to 60 pounds for roles sometimes. If you’re serious, get to the gym. Find out what styles of clothing make the most of your body type, and what colors pop on you. And when you’re done, you will have graduated from your own self-invented finishing school.

For years my mother-in-law would tell me, and anyone else who would listen, that her son was shy. For a while he bought it, but it didn’t serve him. He wanted some adventures in life and had to speak up for himself. He bought a dirt bike and raced it. He taught college classmates how to serve in tennis. This was before the age of the internet when you can find out what you need to know. We did a lot more personal talking then. In a sense you could say he “graduated” from his personalized character building class.

Any time you create an image of yourself that limits your expression, you’re teaching others how to treat you with that part missing. Cultivate an image that matches up with your True Self. Just make sure that humility is also a part of it. It may seem that if I want to be a bad a__ wrestler, I may not want to show humility. But being humble doesn’t mean not being strong, or thinking less of oneself than others. It means that we don’t think that we are greater than others, and we honor others for the True Selves that they really are, even if it is still being hidden by the judgments from others that they accepted about themselves.

Here’s a “graduate school” lesson for you. The next time you see someone really down on themselves, shine your kindness on them. Listen to them. Maybe they’ll tell you what is going on for them, but maybe not. An action of truly caring for them will be accepted by their True Self that never forgets what It Is. It’s our True Self that really energizes us.

I had an experience once when I was physically ill, my job and relationships weren’t going well, and I was sick and down. My dear friend just zapped me with loving energy, while having a meaningful conversation for about 15 minutes, and within 24 hours I was back to myself, or maybe even a little wiser. Now I like to do it for others. Try it, and happy graduation for the rest of your life!


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at


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