Dear Eastern University graduating class of 2011 – my advice to you is threefold:
(1) Soon you will be approaching graduation ceremonies – a lovely collection of events and soon-to-be memories designed to recognize all that you and your family have accomplished to get you here. However, be aware that it is not a culmination – rather, it is a gateway, a door, a threshold. A telling synonym often used for the graduation ceremonies is the word ‘Commencement.’ Of course, when one commences something, one is only at the beginning, at the onset. Remember that your college education has got you to a place where you now can truly begin to learn – to commence your life of work and service. It is good to realize that you are not yet an expert in your field – hopefully, as you move forward in the years to come, you will become an expert in your field, a professional in your degree of study. Wait for it, work for it. It will come – as you humbly continue to learn. Don’t stop learning.
(2) Remember the significant difference between vocation and career. The latter is focused on you and your ability to succeed – that is not a bad thing, but it is a thing easily abused in the event it turns inward, causing you to focus primarily on yourself and your accomplishments. Hopefully here at Eastern you have learned that this life is not all about you. As a counter to such self-focus is the former word: vocation. That word refers to your calling in life, how it is that God has fashioned you to make a difference in this world in light of faith, reason and justice. With that in mind, pursue vocation, making room for career goals only in as much as these fulfill your call. In so doing, you will end up offering yourself in service to others and, in the process, you will discover true satisfaction and a fulfillment of transcendent desire by becoming what God has called you to be.
(3) Remember that work is a good thing – it is not a result of the Fall, something to be avoided, a necessary evil you wish to reduce in order to squeeze the true goods out of life. That we call toil. Instead, work is a Godly thing, a form of worship wherein we take up our tasks in endeavor which mirrors God’s own work and rest. This is a liturgical endeavor with which we serve God, we serve others, we serve creation and, oddly enough, we even serve ourselves. As we work – especially with an eye toward vocation – we co-create with God, thereby discovering who we are in God’s garden. Such efforts are truly satisfying – do not settle for anything less.