Late last night my fourteen year-old budding goddess handed me a piece of paper saying, “Sorry, I know it’s late but I need this for school tomorrow.” Tired Mommy wanted to grumble at her because this piece of paper required more than just my scribbled signature, but when I read what it was asking it touched that fuzzy maternal place deep in my heart.
The paper was a worksheet the kids were using to create their own “Last Lecture.” If you are not familiar with the concept, Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, gave an inspiring speech to his class after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was later published as a book and continues to be a source of inspiration and perspective.
I had forgotten that every freshman is required to write their very own “last lecture.” When my oldest had to go through this exercise in 2008 Randy Paucsh’s book was still warm from the press, Oprah had helped to make it a best seller and it made most people stop and take stock of what really matters in their lives. Asking fourteen year-olds to contemplate the meaning of life seemed fruitless to me at the time, but then again, fourteen year-olds attending a private prep school probably needed this exercise as a serious reality check.
The worksheet asks the kids to look thoughtfully upon their accomplishments, relationships and goals. The parental portion asks the question, “What does success look like for your child?”
This would be the third time I’ve had to answer this question and I had absolutely no recall of what I wrote for my other two daughters! And I’m quite certain that as I have grown older and my perspective on life has simplified, all three answers would be quite different. I prayed they weren’t going to compare answers someday.
“What does success look like for your child?” – my 2008 version probably says that I would like Juliana to reach her goals, whatever they may be. It probably says that I hope she finds her passion in life and is able to translate that into a job or a career. It probably talks about how I hope she wakes up excited every day to go to work to make her dreams come true.
“What does success look like for your child?” – my 2011 version probably talks about not letting the world define you. It probably talks about not letting anyone label you and achieving your dreams despite the criticism and the naysayers.
“What does success look like for your child?” – my 2014 version went something like this… I hope Elizabeth realizes that success is not measured by financial success or by the social strata you occupy. Success is measured by the relationships you build, the love you give and the memories you create along the way.
Each of the answers is a reflection of how I defined my own success at the time. Each statement has its own inherent value and life lesson, but after crossing the 50 mark this year I realized that the goal is to be present…constantly present, reveling in the joys and holding each other in the sorrows. Being thankful for the darkness just as much as the light…because life is messy and beautiful and amazing all at the same time.
So I hope that all three of my children look back someday at the memories I’ve tried to make with them and for them; that they hold dear the traditions we started, scrapped and redefined along the way. I hope that they feel all the love that surrounds them and share that love with their friends and the world. Then I can rest knowing that my life was successful.