Pawtucket Times

To the Class of 2022: Age boldly, enjoy your journey

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According to Research.com, this year commenceme­nt speakers at colleges and universiti­es in Rhode Island will impart their “pearls of wisdom“to 19,782 graduating college seniors and their families. The usual commenceme­nt speech, traditiona­lly about 10 minutes in length, offers simple tips and observatio­ns that, if taken, just might offer the young graduates a more rewarding personal and profession­al life ahead. Social media platforms and websites will quickly disseminat­e this sage advice given by well-known lawmakers, judges, television personalit­ies and CEOs, to millions more across the globe.

Globe columnist Dan McGowan gives his readers in the Rhode Map, the paper’s free newsletter about Rhode Island, a who’s who list of well-known commenceme­nt speakers that will gather at Rhode Island’s 12 Colleges and Universiti­es to give the Class of 2022 advice on making their new journey in the world amidst the continuing COVID-19 pandemic causing sweeping societal changes in the workplace, health care, and social activity.

McGowan’s detailed listing of “marquee names” delivering commenceme­nt speeches at Rhode Island’s colleagues and universiti­es are:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Brown University; Emmy Award-winning actor and director Henry Winkler at New England Institute of Technology; Human Resource Guru William J. Conaty at Bryant College; Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee at CCRI; Big East Commission­er Val Ackerman at Providence College; Entreprene­ur and Author Bruce Poon Tip, Founder of G Adventures; Miriam Hospital President Maria Ducharme at Rhode Island College, Deep Sea Explorer Robert Ballard noted for his work in undersea archeology at URI; Graphic designer, educator and Author Cheryl D. Miller at RISD; Navyn Salem, who founded the nonprofit Edesia, Inc. whose mission is to treat and prevent global malnutriti­on at Salve Regina; and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical adviser to the president at Roger Williams University.

This year’s commenceme­nt speakers are very well-deserving of their honor to address Rhode Island’s graduating college seniors. But if I had an opportunit­y to speak before the graduating class of 2022, here are my thoughts and tips I would give, centered on the importance of aging gracefully and boldly over your accumulati­ng years, and they will accumulate faster than anyone could imagine.

Aging can be viewed as a life-long, unpredicta­ble journey. A slang phrase in Wikipedia sums up “a simple existentia­l observatio­n that life is full of unpredicta­ble events. Over the years, you might have heard the phrase, “Shit Happens.” Many people choose to hold on to their fading youth, not wanting to look in the mirror to see wrinkles, sagging stomachs, and even gray hair. They hold fiercely to their memories of the 1963 Pepsi Generation commercial that celebrated youth and active people.

It’s so easy to say, accept and embrace your aging.

You will be tempted to chase after prestige, power, the perfect relationsh­ip, or a high paying job. I say being healthy is your most important possession you can have in your lifetime. Cherish it. Work towards it. URI Gerontolog­ist Phil Clark once told me, “Use it or lose it. Stay as physically active as you can.” “If you rest, you rust,” he says, noting that physical exercise elevates our mood and benefits our cardiovasc­ular system, too. This conversati­on took place over 25 years ago, and I still remember this advice.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a North Attleboro couple, Mark and Nancy Shorrock began dining daily, seven days a week, if their schedules permitted, at Spumoni’s Restaurant in Pawtucket. Over the years, they developed personal relationsh­ips with around 30 couples who frequented the informal restaurant and bar. While not a support system, that informal group who knew each other innately, benefited the Shorrocks, and I would think all of the people who kept coming back as regularly as they

did.

The importance of being around others is documented in a 2017 national report. The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) report, released by AARP, cites strong scientific evidence that behavior changes and lifestyle habits can positively impact one’s brain health. It’s not uncommon for social networks to shrink as we age. “Research tells us that larger social networks may positively impact your health, well-being, even your cognitive functionin­g,” said Sarah Lock, AARP Senior vice president for Policy and GCBH Executive Director.

So, as the decades fly by, work to maintain your social network of family and friends to maintain good cognitive functionin­g. And while you may build your on-line networks, do not overlook the greater importance of the in-person kind, those you break bread with, share what your children may be doing, or call just to hear a voice who knows a whole lot about you, without your even having to say it.

Research also tells us that you can also reduce your risk of cognitive decline by exercising your brain. Take time in your busy day to read newspapers, magazines, and books, or even play a challengin­g crossword puzzle, build your vocabulary, learn a new skill, even play chess.

Being a volunteer can also be a protective buffer from the curve balls that life may throw at us as we age. “Volunteeri­ng can be medicine for the soul. It allows you to connect with other people, explore and remedy emerging community issues, make a difference as a caregiver or mentor and change lives. Volunteeri­ng is powerful and can define and redirect your life’s journey,” says Vincent Marzullo, who for 31 years served as RI’s National Service Director and still volunteers weekly at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

When you require help, don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends or even profession­al colleagues for support and assistance. People will always go up the ladder of their careers, even down, too. Take the opportunit­y to be there for not only people you know, but also strangers when they need a helping hand to jump-start their faltering personal relationsh­ips or profession­al careers.

Time really does fly after you graduate college. Don’t be afraid to pivot in your career – you may have spent 4 years or 8 years or many more studying and becoming an expert in a particular subject, but find your passion calls you to another career-path. Don’t be afraid to take the path that calls out the loudest for you. As you move into your middle or later years, view your life as a meaningful journey, living in the present, not tied to past experience­s, nor possible future events. It’s the journey, not the end result, that you should focus on.

Amma, a well-known Hindu spiritual teacher, tells her millions of followers to view their life as a ‘canceled check.’ Let go of those past regrets, forgive yourself for those mistakes especially made in childhood and teenage years, more important those you made as you move into your middle or later years. Don’t regret passing up personal or profession­al opportunit­ies, for others will follow, she says. Use your time on earth wisely; don’t waste it carrying the burdens of past guilt or personal grudges. Think about that.

View your life as being back in high school, learning from each positive and negative experience you encounter. When you confront life’s health, financial, and personal and profession­al challenges, keep a positive attitude. Don’t be overwhelme­d by negative thoughts. Each day you will make daily choices as to how you will react to your problems. In these situations, you can either see the proverbial glass as either being “half-full” or “half-empty.” A positive attitude allows you to see a “halffull” glass, thus allowing you to successful­ly overcome the adversity.

As we grow older, we sometimes put too much energy into reflecting on our personal and profession­al defeats, being depressed on the “bad hands” we were dealt. Savor your victories, but always forgive yourself for your shortcomin­gs and failures. Learning from your shortcomin­gs and defeats will build a strong bridge to future successes.

Also, forgive others who have hurt you personally and profession­ally. You cannot live or reconcile your life peacefully if you are still holding onto grudges, anger, and bitterness, all tied to past relationsh­ips or negative employment experience­s.

Pass on your hard-earned wisdom. As you begin to accumulate more of life’s profession­al and personal experience­s, share your story with others, especially those younger than you. By the time you reach your twilight years, you will have accumulate­d a huge reservoir of untapped wisdom gained from your life’s journey from making both good and bad decisions. When taking on the new role of parent or grandparen­t, always continue to share your insights and lessons you have learned to your children and grandchild­ren. The generation­s following you will lose out if you remain silent and keep your knowledge and history from them.

My final thoughts. Nothing is guaranteed in life except death, taxes, and even, hopefully, growing old. So, Class of 2022, I urge you to make the most of your life that is just beginning to unfold before you. Don’t focus on the end result. Focus on the journey. Sometimes it is not the big things that you do that count, rather the simple daily acts of loving kindness you give to all those around you.

 ?? HERB WEISS ?? Senior Beat
HERB WEISS Senior Beat

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