“Badness you can get easily, in quantity: the road is smooth and it lies close by. But in front of excellence the immortal gods have put sweat, and long and steep is the way to it, and rough at first. But when you come to the top, then it is easy, even though it is hard.” –– Hesiod (c.700 BCE), The Theogony
Summer is over and it is time to put the key into the ignition, start your engine, and hit the road to knowledge. Fall semester, the midpoint of the journey through the academic year. The first part of a journey is always full of bright eyes, hope, and energy. But the midpoint of the journey is usually one of the hardest to get through. For seniors the end is in sight, but there are so many crossroads, so many decisions to make about the future. It is easy to get confused about which road to take. Should I get a job or go on to graduate school? What kind of job do I really want to get? What is really important to me and my future? For freshmen, there are many questions about where you are going and where you have been. Did I choose the right major? Do I even know what to do with my major? How well did I spend my first semester? Too much studying or too much partying? How well did I balance my social life with my academic life? For sophomores and juniors it is easy to feel lost or like you are getting nowhere. There is no end in sight to the mountains of homework and exams in front of you. Will I ever reach the end? The fall semester is the semester of questions that may seem to have no answer. Questions of life that inspired Gauguin’s famous painting: “Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?”
I am reminded of a journey I took shortly after graduating university that had a big impact on my life. My friends and I decided we wanted to spend the next day at the beach, which was a good eight-hour drive away through a barren desert and over rough mountains. We decided to leave around midnight to make it there in the morning. After the long drive through the night we were feeling exhausted and confused, driving through the town trying to find the way to the beach and not finding the right road there. Driving through a residential neighborhood, we decided to ask someone for help. We finally saw a house on a hill with someone sitting on the front porch. I stood up through the sunroof of the car and saw an old Chinese man with a long white beard surrounded by bamboo wind chimes. He seemed like a character from a movie. I asked him if he could tell us how to find the beach. After a brief pause he said to me, “Look deep inside your heart and there you will find your beach.” Yeah, just like a movie. My friends just laughed about it but I decided to take it seriously. I sat down, turned off my brain and followed my heart. Sure enough I was able to guide my friend right to the beach. I have always used his words to help me on my life’s journey and have found them to be true.
Making choices in life is not always easy, but I have found some great words to guide me. The Navajos have a great expression in their philosophy of life. “Walk in beauty.” A Yaqui shaman advised, “Choose the path with heart. Rejoice in it and follow it with a joyful lust for life.” Following these words adds richness, beauty, and a deliberate way of living to your life.
Explore. Do not be afraid of getting lost. Sometimes getting lost is the best way to find oneself. You will find the clues to your life. Albert Einstein wrote, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Look around you. Take a gamble. As John Paul Jones said, “Those who do not risk, cannot win.”
Enjoy. The twisting journey of life can lead us in new directions, but in the end, we all arrive at the same place. It is important to have fun along the way. Be optimistic. Do not let yourself get stuck in the routines of life. Disrupt the routines of your life. Routines can wear you down and make you weak. Keep an open and positive mind. After all, what is a life lived without adventure?
Dream big. You cannot always get what you want, but that should not stop you from dreaming. Life is big and you are small. This is a tremendous world and it has a lot to offer. Live in awe of life. Know your weaknesses but do not be weak. Use your inner strength to overcome them. It is never too late to change something. Sometimes it is only through struggle that we can truly achieve victory.
The key of life is to live by your heart’s beat. Listen to it. In life, rhythm is essential, it keeps you moving. Be fun and unpredictable. Do the unexpected. Surprise yourself with new and creative ideas. Keep your life exciting. Surprise your friends. Do something no one else would think of. Be the best you can be. Live a lot, laugh a lot, and love a lot.
Remember, if you ever feel lost, stuck, or confused, just look deep inside your heart and there you will find your beach. Now go out there, have some fun and make some noise!
Steve Koons firstname.lastname@example.org
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