some words to keep you company

For my students who graduated yesterday and those who are hoping to graduate soon. For those who are staying and those who are leaving, and those who visited for a while. And for anyone else who might resonate with these words.

I hope you will keep cultivating the qualities that will help you engage wisely with the real challenges you will encounter in this imperfect world.

I hope you will develop your capacity to see yourself in relation to others, to see the ways in which we are entangled in complex webs of relationships, and to weave connections that are mutually supportive, even with those who feel Other to you. To see and acknowledge the many ways in which you are reliant on others, and those in which others rely on you. To remember that humans are not the only living beings. To notice and question your complicities in systems of violence.

I hope you will cultivate a sense of curiosity about yourself and others, the ability to suspend judgement for long enough to ask deeper and more interesting questions, the capacity to be surprised from time to time, and the willingness to keep learning.

I hope you will have opportunities to be creative, to exercise your imagination, and to experience beauty in unlikely places. To work with your hands and your body as well as your head, and to communicate in many different ways.

I hope you will have the courage to take some risks, to encourage courage in others, and to feel the excitement and wonder that can come with exploring new territory and unexpected turns. Or also with looking at the same territory through a different lens.

I hope you will keep in touch with your own voice, even when that is difficult and challenging. Listen to the questions that keep arising – they are probably trying to tell you something important. Notice what resonates with you and why.

I hope you will find ways to heal from the hurts you have experienced or will experience, to become more whole as a person in the face of all the fractures, to love yourself and others, and to live with the vulnerabilities involved. Ways to draw on ‘the gift of pessimism’ that deepen rather than erode your own dignity and commitment to transformation.

All of this will be work in progress, never quite finished. It will require patience and compassion and generosity, both for yourself and for others. Sometimes it will require focus and at other times peripheral vision. Sometimes, it will need you to go slow, to stay somewhere or with someone long enough to develop your understanding or to help them understand you. Often, it will mean circular movements rather than straight lines.

Sometimes, you will need serendipity or good luck. I wish you a bit of both along the way. I wish you the support and encouragement and accompaniment of others – experiences of being seen, listened to, trusted, allowed to experiment. And when you have such experiences, I hope you will try to create them for others too.

Take care.

With thanks to all my students, past and present, who have helped me to experiment with some of these ideas and shared their own experiments and learning with me – you know who you are. Please stay in touch…

Acknowledgements to John Paul Lederach for the inspiration behind these words, and also for some of the words.