Thursday, November 18, 2010


This was a speech made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anna Quindlen
at the graduation ceremony of an American university where she was
awarded an Honorary PhD. 

"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. 
Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk 
out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. 
There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree: 
there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a 
living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody 
of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your
life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car or at the computer.
Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. 
Not just your bank accounts but also your soul ... 

People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier
to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold comfort
on a winter's night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when
you've received your test results and they're not so good. 

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried
never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no
longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I
listen. I try to laugh. I am a faithful friend to my husband. I have
tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to
my friends and them to me.
Without them, there would be 
nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out. 
But, I call them on the phone and I meet them for lunch. I would be
rotten, at best mediocre, at my job if those other things were not true.

You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you
So here's what I wanted to tell you today: 

Get a life. A real life,
not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay cheque, the
larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things
if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon or found a lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on
a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a
red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or the way a baby scowls with
concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and first

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love and
respect, and who love and respect you. And remember that love is not 
leisure, it is work - hard work. Pick up the phone. Send an email. 
Write a letter. Make an effort. Get a life in which you are generous.
And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no
business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that
you want to spread it around. Take money you would have spent on beer
and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or
sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then
doing well will never be enough. 

It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes.
It is so easy to take for granted the colour of our kids' 
eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears
and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of to live.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not
the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that 
today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the 
good in the world and try to give some of it back because I believed 
in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by 
telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider 
the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the
back yard with the sun on your face. 

Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if
you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived".

If we could all live by this philosophy the world would be a better place...

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