Thursday, August 18, 2016

Preparing for Unpreparedness

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending yet another matriculation convocation at my university. This ceremony welcomes the first year students with a few concise speeches and grandiose organ music before the new faces brave their first classes in just a few short days. I am so excited to get to know the newest members of our community, and to hopefully help them thrive as they experience all the things that come with the first year of college.

One thing stood out to me, though, in a speaker's brief words. He told the students that they have arrived to campus "with all the tools they need to be successful, fully prepared for the challenges ahead." And as I sat facing those students, I wanted to shake my head. To tell them that this speaker had over-exaggerated their preparedness, and that if they believed him, their failures might be shocking and difficult to deal with.

These students have arrived with all the tools they need to be successful. That part of his speech is not wrong. We have all been shaped by our experiences. This makes us able to withstand a multitude of obstacles that we may never have prepared for. But the key is in the unpreparedness. The tools for the journey can be found within your being, but I daresay there are parts of you you haven't discovered yet. Skills you haven't made ready for what you are about to face. To expect complete preparedness may limit what we are willing to achieve.

So to the student starting their first year of college, or for anyone else who is embarking on a new part of their life's journey, I want to say this:

You are unprepared for what lies ahead in ways you cannot fathom at this moment in your life. Do not expect to have a solution ready for every obstacle you are going to face. Classes might demand more of you than you are ready to give. Friendships will challenge you in new ways as you come closer to learning who you are. Some days you might experience emotions more deeply than you've ever felt before. Feeling lost is ok. Nobody can ever know yourself like you can, and every time you face something that seems over your head, you expand your understanding of yourself. Embrace the opportunity to learn more about who you can be.

You are going to fail. Sometimes miserably, and sometimes just enough to remind you that you need to try a little harder. If you treat them right, your failures will be your biggest successes. Don't think that if you fail it was just because you should have been more prepared. You are not prepared. At least not for everything. But that is the only way we learn-- by pushing the boundaries of what we think we are capable of, or "prepared for," and letting ourselves fall, even if it hurts. 

The only thing you should feel prepared for is unpreparedness. Try to embrace the possibility that at this moment in time, you aren't quite up to some of the challenges you are going to face. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try your darnedest to overcome that gap between what you are capable of now and what you can be capable of someday. 

Be brave. Try new things. Step outside your comfort zone. And help each other up when you've fallen down.