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Our ‘almost’ college graduate recently asked us: “Really, is the tassel worth the hassle?”
In 2013 I wrote a BahaiTeachings.org article called, 6 Spiritual Steps to College to connect with other parents going through the ritual of helping their children find the right “match” for college. Luckily, after some hard work and a few deep discussions, we found a good match for our daughter; a quality school where she could find her calling and nurture her greatest capacity.
Now, four years later, as we head into the graduation season, our daughter will wear her mortarboard and tassel—but this time the stakes seem even higher. Now we are not merely bound for the safe environs of another school setting, but into real life. The charge we have as parents suddenly graduates from “next steps” to “life steps.” This time there are no professors and staff watching over our kids with the infrastructure and the security offered at most universities. Our offspring will no longer have the shared experiences of a sea of peers going through similar searches and discoveries.
My graduate asks questions like, “Should I stay in my college town, where I have contacts, or move home where it’s cheaper to live?” “Should I go for my dream job or play it safe at a more stable one?” “How do I make a living budget instead of a ‘going out’ budget?”
So once again, as we usually do during these major life transitions, my husband and I look to the Baha’i writings for help in how to counsel and companion our daughter. As a first step, we find the passages in the Baha’i writings where Baha’u’llah advised us to know ourselves:
… man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 34-35.
True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his self. – Ibid., p. 156.
We tell our college graduate that at this stage it seems helpful to transform and redefine herself all over again, now that she has 16 years of education accumulated and will soon take the first steps in a long career. We ask, “Have your studies and experiences confirmed your passion or deterred it? Do you know yourself better than before?”
Then we remind her that the other life steps—what she does, where she works or lives—will be an outcome, a backdrop to a larger spiritual picture, the gradual maturation and development of her soul. By knowing ourselves, we also come to know what our gifts are, so all we really have to do is learn how and then find ways to best apply those gifts.
At this point, I had a much longer conversation with my graduate. I told her “Your talent is a gift from God so what you do with it is how you give back … it’s how you can say, ‘thank you.’ I’ve observed in people that those who seem happiest in their lives are the ones who are tapping into as many of those gifts as possible, and increasing their capacities. They have an attitude of using those gifts not only for themselves, but for our communities and for all of humanity.”
Henry Ford put it this way, “The gifted man bears his gifts into the world, not for his own benefit, but for the people among whom he is placed; for the gifts are not his, he himself is a gift to the community.”
Colossians 3:23 says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”
Our family discourse is still in motion, but we came to this conclusion, which may apply to every graduate: strive to find work that involves your passion and talents, and if you can’t, find work that will be a means for to enable your passion at another time, maybe even in the same day:
… Every day, in the morning when arising one should compare today with yesterday and see in what condition you are. If you see your belief is stronger and your heart more occupied with God and your love increased and your freedom from the world greater then thank God and ask for the increase of these qualities. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 68.
If all that can happen, the tassel was definitely worth the hassle.