Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
My favorite poet Mary Oliver wrote those words, and I think about them often.
“Your one wild and precious life…”
What can we do with our one life to give it meaning?
Really, our lives are just collections of experiences large and small – shaped by the people we love, the people we don’t love, and all little the things we’ve done or cared about. So far, we haven’t had even close to our full share of experiences. But we have had some, and not all of them were wonderful.
In our junior year, more than 60 of us were separated from an entire community at Vets to come to Toll Gate. And as much as everyone tried to make a seamless transition, as much as Toll Gate tried to be as welcoming as possible, it would be naive to say that it happened perfectly.
And then, right in the middle of this difficult time, we lost our principal – a man who brought passion, excitement, and love to everything he did. Mr. Chrabaszcz put the prince in principal. He stood outside every morning to be the first person to greet us, not because it was part of his job description, but because being there, and caring about our experience, was as natural to him as breathing.
And then, just this fall, our school and our entire community lost Gianna Cirella, a truly special human being who brought light, laughter, and warmth to everyone who knew her. I know how deeply she touched so many people, and how much she is missed and remembered.
Loss will always be a part of our lives. As humans who care for, love, and attach ourselves to others, we make ourselves vulnerable to that.
What do we gain from enduring loss?
Perhaps a bit of resilience and courage, but mostly a sort of closeness and appreciation for one another that may not have been there before. A new appreciation for the minutia of life, and the skill to keep it all in perspective.
The quicker we can learn to really be in the moment...to take in the details...to notice the green of the trees, the gray of a stormy sky, the quirkiness of our friends, the sounds of their laughter, the breeze in our hair...the more we can get from this “wild and precious life”.
They say that everything happens for a reason...but I think it would be more accurate to say that everything just happens, and we do the best we can to adjust.
Responding to change is something we’ve been doing all our lives…and we’ll be called upon to do it for the rest of our lives.
Sometimes, we can’t wait for change! And other times, change comes before we’re ready.
But if we can learn to embrace it, to be excited by it, and ultimately, to know that we can handle it, we’re one step closer to making the most of our wild and precious lives.
Making the most of our lives...
One way we’ve done that – maybe without even being conscious of it – is with our school spirit. Honestly, it had been lacking in our first three years at Toll Gate. But this year, I think we were finally able to turn things around, and I’m so glad we did. I want to thank everyone for that, because it’s a collective effort, but I especially want to acknowledge my fellow members of student council: Bobby Lisi, Nick Petrone, and Julie Davis.
Little by little, we planned a lot of small events that added up to a much larger sense of togetherness. If each of us can create this kind of a community wherever we go in our lives, we’ll have more of an impact than we know.
Over the years, we were lucky to have many teachers who made their classrooms a sanctuary for us when we needed support.
We all have that one person – whether it was a teacher or not – that we trusted or connected with. Like Mrs. Franco who brought snacks for kids who might have gone without breakfast, or Mrs. Biafore who was always there to listen to our stories, even the really stupid ones. And there are so many others who have gone above and beyond. Thank you.
For my life, I want to thank my beautiful family for giving me their love and boundless support. And especially, thank you, Mom.
So going forward, how can we know we’re making the most of our “wild and precious lives?”
How can we be sure that what we’re doing has meaning, when we look around and find a million reasons to think it doesn’t?
We can start by remembering that everyone has value. Everyone of us has worth. Every single one of us can do something with our life that is important, even if it seems really small. And that’s the challenge. To do something good in our lives.
And if you don’t know what you want to be – be kind! Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. Have an open mind. Don’t be judgmental. Know that everyone has a story that’s different from yours and you can learn from anyone you encounter. Everyone of us has had challenges, and there will be more in the future. So move forward with the intent to better yourself – but not to be better than others. Just when you think you understand something, be willing to change your perspective. Honor and be proud of yourself, and honor others as well.
Live your one wild and precious life.