It's Sunita here.
The past few weeks have been full of celebration of my daughter Nina's college graduation. My visit with you today is to talk about the commencement speech that Dr. Mary C. Daly gave to the students, faculty and families at Syracuse University on May 9, 2019.
Dr. Daly has an impressive resume. At just 54 years old, she has achieved more than most people will in their lifetime. She has broken many glass ceilings and blazed a trail that will allow many people opportunities that they may not have had without her success. I had read up on her before we headed up to Syracuse that weekend so I could have an idea of what she may talk about at commencement.
Everything that I could have imagined Mary touching upon in her speech did not materialize. Instead of a highly successful bureaucrat, a human being showed up. Instead of advice on how to become successful in a cut throat world she talked about what it took to become a person who felt comfortable inhabiting the life she had built. Instead of proclaiming how important she was, Mary shared how others recognized how important she was before she even had an inkling of her worth.
The Mary that showed up that morning in Syracuse brought her humanity with her. Not her resume...
Mary shared with us that at age 15, she had dropped out of school due to the turmoil that had invaded her home and family, she had nowhere to go, no future to look forward to and had pretty much given up on herself. A school counsellor suggested she meet a woman named Betsy who might be able to guide her.
Mary describes how she went to meet Betsy at a local McDonalds in her hometown of Ballwin, Missouri. Looking back, Mary remembers the advice Betsy gave her as the turning point of her life.
YOU HAVE TO BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.
Betsy compassionately acknowledged that Mary had a tough situation but she reminded her that life was not fair.
Good people do not always get a good start. There maybe many people that have advantages that they did not earn or work for. Or even deserve. But that's life. And as long as we fight our circumstances, we will never rise above them. So much time is wasted on lamenting about the challenges we are facing. Some of us may have more than our fair share of unfortunate and tragic events occur in our life. Poverty, death, mental illness, abuse, incarceration, racial and social discrimination, violence and neglect only cover some of the more common road blocks that we face as human beings.
The point is that our reality will not change with compassion on the part of another human being. Compassion with sage advice that leads us to understand and accept our current situation is the only way for us to make changes.
Betsy that day went above being a compassionate friend to Mary. She acknowledged her hardships but empowered Mary by telling her that she could bloom even under the harsh circumstances she faced. She didn't sugar coat her reality. She also didn't allow her to believe she was a victim though. She was honest with her when she said that to get unstuck, it would take a lot of effort on Mary's part. But she gave her hope by saying it was possible with a good plan and perseverance.
But first Mary would have to come to terms with her current lot in life and accept that she would have to build her life from that starting point. That takes immense effort and strength because then one cannot blame others, feel sorry for oneself, be angry at the world, find escape routes to numb the pain of one's difficult situation (drinking, drugs, promiscuity, etc, etc,).
Basically, it means saying, "This is what I have to work with. Now I must get to work"
Dr. Daly put in the work, and continues to. That morning at Syracuse she credited Betsy and the many other mentors, friends and supporters who have guided her throughout her career and life with creating a life that at age 15 was "completely improbable and wildly unrealistic"
Here are my favorite pieces of advice from Dr. Daly's speech that morning. I hope you find them as inspiring and useful as I did.
- You have to bloom where you are planted- courtesy Betsy
- Books show you a way out that you could never have imagined.
- True confidence comes when we accept ourselves, our experiences and our stories
- Be vulnerable and ask for help. It will make your life richer.
- Be brave enough to accept help.
- Be open to opportunities that you have not yet conceived.
- Don't worry if your journey wanders. It will help you figure out what's next for you.
I end our visit today by sharing this poem of mine as it is essence what we have talked about.
To love myself,
I must know who I am.
To know who I am,
I must go back in time.
To find my own voice,
I must silence what you said.
To find my own truth,
I must leave the lies behind.
To live in my light,
I must make peace
With the darkness.
PERMISSION is #38 in the collection of poems in my book 'Stripping : My Fight to Find Me".
Wishing you a 'Betsy" in your life,
Be well Do well Live well