Dr. Grauer's Column - What Is Your Journey Going To Be?
What Is Your Journey Going To Be?
A Speech to the New Grauer 9th Grade Students on the Occasion of Matriculation
We create our journeys.
The-outer journey: where we go, where we travel… on your graduation day program it will say these words: "Life is an expedition.” This starts for you today.
And…we have powerful imaginations, our inner journey! You are already on that road!
Yesterday I asked the seniors, who had their ceremony four years ago, what to tell new freshmen. They told me: "It goes by a lot faster than you think: don’t take the security of being a child for granted. Yesterday, I was standing up with a new hoody, now I am making life decisions.”
And they told me: “Stand by the people in your class—they will be there for you at the end of this, and through the changes.” You are seeking independence, and yet you need to find your people. This is the paradox of the hero’s journey.
Joseph Campbell studied heroes' journeys through the millennia and found that the journey is not place based: it starts inside. There are doors to open inside yourself. Without those doors, no journey matters.
The doors have names:
And there are other doors named:
There are a great many doors you don’t even see at first, and others see them, and you see they see them, and you wake up. Doors open that you never knew were there. Today is a door. What will you name it?
What makes you feel alive?
Are you worried or fearful to go for that feeling?
Your friends aren’t taking that door?
Your parents might not approve?
Somebody says it might not lead to college or an A Grade … ?
Somehow, the courageous among us get past all that, to a door called: Freedom. The Real door.
The courageous among us can tell when something is right: “This is my path.” It’s clear. They stick to that thing no matter what… for as long as it is right.
So so many people live comfortable, with the herd, trapped, victims, lost in a matrix of predictable outcomes, to the inner voice saying, “should should should….”
Sometimes you think you are “on it,” and still you can get lost. Then, you take to the geniuses of past times. Then, you take the time to hear Rumi when he says: “I want to sing like birds sing, not worrying who listens or what they think.”
Then, you take the time to hear another lost seeker who says: “You'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened by human behavior. You're by no means alone, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many have been just as troubled as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to.” It’s Holden Caufield! He is telling you: Read the great wisdom! When you are stuck, open those pages. You will be astonished at how quickly you can shift. That is what education is and does.
You will know the great wisdom quickly, because it will somehow, some way, tip you off that you are not trapped after all—that you have a choice.
There is always wisdom for the trapped. Open the book. Write the poem. Call the mentor. Work really hard, keep working hard, and you will come around.
Anias Nin wrote:
“And the day came
when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful
than the risk it took to blossom.”
Here, the poet is describing the experience of being alive … really alive. This is the hero’s journey… alive.
You go out.
You face fear.
You might not be great at that thing yet, but you dig in,
You get stuck, you keep going, or…
Your first efforts seem terrible, and you keep at them.
Somebody says something hurtful, or …
Your fear inside you won’t shut up… and you…push through the scary or hard or challenging,
Until one day
You just know it’s there … you’ve got this thing.
This is your calling, like a seed sprouting…
You have become the hero of your story…
You will become the hero of your own journey.
“Your life is the fruit of your own doing,” wrote Campbell.
You will separate. Some of you will hear the call to adventure and this starts that separation …you will be independent. Don’t wait till then. Ask now: What will I do with this wild life? The ask is your REAL matriculation.
The luckiest among you finally get the message and it is either the scariest thing you have ever heard in your life, or the greatest most exciting thing: “I am responsible for this adventure… This is my adventure. Go for it, me!”
If you are willing, you will find: “School is not here to control me or make me dependent. I am done with my primary education. I am literate. Now is the time for independence.”
“The snake that cannot shed its skin must perish.” -Nietzsche
Your old life was lovely, and warm,
and it has no more use,
you are transforming, as initiates your age have for millennia.
Most years, I like to find other ceremonies which cultures provide to youths coming of age.
—Maasai children at your age are sent out to hunt their first lion.
—Jewish boys and girls memorize long, ancient tracts and recite them before their peers
—Inuit boys come of age when they go out to the wilderness with their fathers to test their hunting skills and acclimatize to the harsh arctic weather.
—An Apache girls’ endurance task consists of a dance that lasts throughout the night with no sleep and only a small amount of food.
—In the vision quest, many Native American tribes would send their young men off into the wild for several days during a period of intense fasting to find direction for their lives.
—In the Walkabout, aboriginal tribes of Australia send their young men into the wilderness for up to 6 months to test whether they are ready to become men. The boys must survive, unassisted.
—Modern coming of age for girls is depicted in "Little Women" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn".
—now it is your turn, for your initiation. You are getting a sweatshirt but, what if, after 4 years, your sweatshirt could talk story—what will that story be?
All wise stories reveal transformation. Read them when you are stuck. Every great story tells us this truth, just as the ancient Upanishads say: “Follow your bliss.” So does “The Odyssey.” So does “Don Quixote." Even "The Catcher in the Rye."
Over these four years, you will have a vision quest, experience the wild, and face fear with a smile.
Your childing is over. This is your new life, new journey. This is your ceremony. This is the crossing over to a more fearless life.
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