Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Advice to 1986 graduates

May 25, 1986

My dear daughter and other 1986 high school grads:

You have finally made it. You are about to embark upon the journey of your life. The foundation has been laid for your future success. The rest is up to you.

Here are some guideposts to help , you along the way.

Make service to others a part of your goal. It is the pathway to joy. Your capacity to love grows once you dare to loosen the chains of self. You are young. You have been a child. The bud that you are will now open and give its fragrance to others.

Seek and embrace truth about yourself and the world around you. It is the pathway to paths you ought to be taking. To the best of your ability solve the mystery of life and of eternity. Know that truth comes through many sources, not the least of which are adversity, pain and loss. Find meaning in your experience. Let your faith be your strength in your hour of need.

Let reality be your teacher. If you have to choose between the way the world is and the way it “should” be, start with the way you find it and work towards the way it should be. Reach for the stars but keep your feet on the ground.

Dream your dreams! If it is success you want, find a need and fill it with quality. Finding the need is harder than you think. There is no shortcut to quality. Yet needs are all around you. Excellence is up to you. The niches are there and always will be for people who see them.

Think big. I mean really BIG! You are limited only by your imagination and vision of yourself and what you can do. If you can conceive it, it is within your power. You can judge a leader by the size of the problem he or she is attempting to solve.

Learn from others. There is wisdom all around you. In college, seek out the best teachers. In life, do the same. Set your ego aside. Know that you have nothing to prove by reinventing the wheel when there are wheelmakers who are willing to share what they know. Your greatest skill will be your ability to listen. It is the key to many doors.

Give it away. The good you do will come back to you. Do more than others expect. Be a part of someone else’s success. There are others with your interests. Find them. Exchange ideas. Stay accessible to others who want to build on your efforts. Trust and share with others and you will know the power of a team is greater than one man or woman alone.

Take risks. You will learn from mistakes. You will learn from failure. Volunteer for something hard and grow into it. “In the Land of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is King.” Great accomplishments have small beginnings. Fear is your enemy, courage is your ally.

Be a “can-do” person. Attitude and enthusiasm will solve problems other won’t attempt. Find a way or make one. Failure will come before success and success will come before rewards. Great people are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. Get up one more time than you have been knocked down. Pay the price, whatever it is. If what you are doing isn’t working, redefine the problem and win a war of your own choosing.

Work hard. Your drive and energy will carry you further than your talent. Much, much further. Don’t shy away from giving your energy. To give of your energy wholeheartedly, take time to learn what you are really good at and what you enjoy doing. When you have this combination, work will be a pleasure and flow from you effortlessly. Laziness becomes a problem as you shrink from doing hard things, either in your work or in other areas of your life that need improvement.

Share the journey. The journey of life needs to be shared to be enjoyed. A solitary triumph lacks the luster of a shared victory. Don’t be afraid of marriage and of having children. You will discover new wellsprings of growth and love in these timeless associations. All your striving has to be balanced with the nourishment and support of a loving family. This precious companionship requires time, attention, creativity, energy and love. “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

Be patient. Life never seems to be too easy. You will be pushed and stretched into new struggles, new dreams and new territories. There never will be a time when you can say “My work is done, my learning is complete, my service is over.”

“Be flexible.” In some ways, you are unprepared for what is to come. Life will teach you some lessons we, as parents, could not or did not teach you. You will face disappointment and discouragement. Make your darkest hour your finest hour.

Dear daughter, dear graduates, this is your time. Make the best of it.