During graduation season, I discovered a bit of wisdom in a bag of chips!?
As young adults are celebrating high school graduation they are barraged with questions; what are you doing next, where are you going to school, what are you studying, are you living on campus, when do you start, etc., etc., etc.????
Having seen my sons struggle with some of these questions I wanted to take a different approach with my nephew, Caleb, when he graduated a few weeks ago. However, I caught myself asking some of these same questions and paused, stopped and then began again this time from a different perspective. Slowing things down and instead asking, “How does it feel to be done with high school?”
Reaching a goal that is set, by others, 13 years in advance, is a big deal! Why not allow graduates to take a few minutes, hours, days or weeks to process the journey, celebrate their accomplishments and stay in between the end of high school and the beginning of what is next for just a little while? What is the hurry to move them along to the next goal?
I wasn’t planning to attend his party, but the passing of my beloved dog, Remington, made it possible. So I arrived completely unprepared with a gift or card. While picking up ice with my younger nephew, Darien, I confessed that I didn’t have anything for his brother and at least needed a card. We couldn’t find any cards and so I asked what does Caleb like? He likes food. Well, what 17-year-old boy doesn’t??? How about potato chips (since they were staring me in the face at the moment)? Yes!
A bag of Lay’s, salt and vinegar chips appeared to be the perfect gift! However, I couldn’t just hand Caleb a bag of chips and say “Happy graduation, congrats!” There needed to be something more to it than that. During the entire party I searched my creative spaces to figure out a meaningful a way to present this unconventional, and somewhat cheesy gift to him.
Finally, things came together. Lay’s, I decide, is an abbreviation for Life Allows Yumminess SAVOR! Scavenging for a Sharpie (again leaning on Darien for assistance), this brilliance was added to the bag of chips. But wait, there has to be more…
Raiding my sister’s office, I found a sheet of blue paper, made two quick folds and added some additional thoughts: “Take time to enjoy your accomplishments. Soon you will be off in a new direction with greater conquests in your sights. Build on the strong foundation you have set and enter into the world with curiosity and confidence – love Auntie Betsy.”
As I wrote this, I realized that I needed this advice myself. With Remington’s passing, this is the first time I haven’t had a pet since 1987. For the first time in my adult life I am responsible only for ME. My children are grown and independent, I’m divorced, and I have no pets. Just as with Caleb, I stopped asking “what’s next” and instead asked “how do I feel?” I don’t have to know what is next. I can celebrate the wonderful men I raised, the great lives I provided to my shelter pets and the many years I dedicated to my marriage and family. Those greater conquests can go unidentified. Soon enough they will reveal themselves but for now I’m going to spend some time in the “in between.” In this moment I feel free, a little apprehensive, accepting of all the losses and disappointments but most of all optimistic, excited and curious for the future.
In the past several years I’ve experienced a lot of life changes, multiple transitions. I’ve often found myself in the “in between.” Being between an ending and a beginning is uncomfortable, foreign and scary for me. I feel like I should know what to do next or how to fill the space that an ending has opened. Sometimes I come out of this emptiness only to realize I need some more time there before I’m ready to move to the next thing. Allowing myself to slow down and appreciate the “in between” has afforded opportunities that I may have missed if I had rushed to fill the space.
When Caleb’s party wrapped up, he unwrapped his gifts and the day was complete. I don’t know what impact my gift had on him (I’m sure the cash was appreciated) but the message has stayed with me for some time since.
Have you spent enough or any time in the “in between”? Are there opportunities in your life to pause and savor before jumping into the next thing?
As you begin to ask, “what’s next,” pause, stop and consider allowing time for the “in between” … even if it is only long enough to enjoy a bag of chips! Life Allows Yumminess, SAVOR!
Betsy is the Founder of Journey of WE, Inc. and holds a Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology. She is actively applying the theories and science of happiness to enable individuals, organizations and community groups to increase their level of well-being.