To My Graduating Seniors of 2015


Earlier today, I had my final class with my seniors. This was the third of three groups that I have had to say goodbye to in as many days. Very sad to say farewell to some very fine individuals; I have been with many of them for 2, 3, and even 4 years. Before the final bell, I thanked them, offered a few final words of reflection, and reminded them that, before any other role they might play in life, they are individuals first. As the period ended, I gave them the following letter — and an accompanying CD — to remind them that this journey has not ended for any of us; it simply continues in new and exciting ways. 

May it continue for all with mindfulness, love, and compassion. ~rvw

May 2015

To my graduating seniors…

A few weeks ago, there was a moment in our classroom when I realized that we had turned that final corner of the academic year; the end was too close to ignore, and like some giant magnet pulling you away from our discussions of Hamlet and the many literary devices that I wanted you to learn before your AP exam, you looked at me with eyes alive, but not for what we were studying. You were gone – already on some beach or along a narrow mountain trail – you were, simply put, at a place far, far away from our classroom.

I get that. Not only have I experienced that for myself in such trips through the academic circuit – first in elementary school when I graduated from sixth grade, then high school, then undergrad, and most recently as a father in grad school – I have experienced it too, as a teacher for close to 30 years, where I have seen an energy in my students for all that awaited you once that final bell rang and you had thrown your cap in the air. The world was yours to conquer.

The little secret, though, that I want to pass along to you, is that it has always been yours – a great life is not waiting for you somewhere out there; it is already here, as it has always been.

I tell you this because you are going to face this feeling again – and again, as you journey onward. And even though they are indeed milestones, they are pinnacles in a life that is already extraordinary – or should be.

To keep it that way – to stay in the extraordinary – I want to leave you with five guiding lights that have led me along my own personal journey. It’s never easy to stay the course and keep the focus, but they have been good reminders to me, and I hope they help you too.

  1. Do The Work. You have a limitless source of energy within you. Channel it in ways that are productive, in ways that benefit you and others in genuine and authentic ways. Many will complain about why they can’t do something. If you are “doing the work,” then you have no complaints; you are in control of your actions, and you are empowering yourself to have greater options available to you, now and in the future.
  1. Trust The Process/Have Patience. It is a tough time to be growing up, simply because you live in a give-me-now society where instant gratification is not fast enough for us at times. We are easily bored, quick to judge, and quick to react. We have to trust the process of how problems evolve into solutions. We need to have and practice patience along the way. We cannot expect to have every answer appear in our newsfeed as we scroll through items and updates that pass by us at a rate of 1 to 2 seconds at a time. Take a deep breath. Step back. Observe. Be patient. And trust the process… and trust yourself.
  1. Practice Compassion/Be A Good Listener. It’s so hard for all of us, I think, to get to where we think we need to go. We keep our heads down as we plow through on our journey to become better students and harder workers while we build that resume or get those high test scores. The danger in such a pursuit is that we rarely observe and understand the struggles that others – just like ourselves – might be going through. There’s a phrase in Lost, Live Together, Die Alone that really fits here. We need each other. We need to practice compassion for our friends and our family members, and for everyone else, too. We need to be good listeners to each other so we know that we are in this together, and we are not alone, in this shared journey of individuals. Do the work, but keep your head up and remember to be compassionate toward others along the way.
  1. Respect The Lessons And Stories Shared In Literary and Artistic Works. Artists – writers, painters, musicians, actors – have used their talents for centuries to tell us something, to share their stories that matter deeply to them and, as a result, to us. Reading and appreciating the arts was never intended to be done for grades or for assessments; it was to offer an expression of shared experience, to touch us in some way, to reach out as a lasting attempt to tell us something. Read, watch, listen for a purpose that is deeply personal; let the art touch you and then own a part of it for yourself. Capture what is most important and carry that with you. Let it breathe through your own words, brush strokes, and actions as you continue along your own way in expressing your experiences.
  1. Have Courage, Release Fear, and Embrace Love. The greatest challenge we face is fear. It holds us back from taking risks, believing in ourselves, and pursuing our passions and what is most important to us. Fear disguises itself through rationalizations and securities of comfort. Have courage to discover what you want in your life. Believe in yourself, release the fear that holds you back, and embrace self-love and love from others along the way. Once you do this, you will see that your choices will become your realities.

Living Your Life Fully – now – is all about recognizing, understanding, appreciating, providing, and loving. The songs that I have selected for you on this CD are what I would feature if I had my own online radio channel. They are timeless for me. They are the musical version of my guiding lights helping me along the way. I hope they help you too.

It’s been an honor and privilege to spend this year with you. We have learned from each other in our short time journeying together. Always remember the power of words – both of what we read and of what we write. They are miracle workers for others as well as for ourselves. I wish you the very best as you continue on, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. May the walk be long, filled with love and compassion, friends and solitude, challenges and epiphanies.

It’s your journey. Make every step worthwhile.

Offering love and peace to each of you. I’ll see you on the other side….

as always……………….VW


The 12AP2K15 Playlist:

  1. “Waiting on the World To Change” ~John Mayer
  2. “One” ~U2
  3. “Love Is the Seventh Wave” ~Sting
  4. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” ~Bobby McFerrin
  5. “Secret O’ Life” ~James Taylor
  6. “Three Little Birds” ~Bob Marley
  7. “This Is Home” ~Switchfoot
  8. “Imagine” ~John Lennon
  9. “Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” ~Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  10. “Black Rock” ~O.A.R.
  11. “Soulshine” ~Warren Haynes
  12. “Free > Into the Mystic” ~Zac Brown
  13. “Redemption Song” ~Bob Marley
  14. “Ripple” ~Grateful Dead
  15. “All You Need Is Love” ~The Beatles