A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

To our graduates: Still talking about the ‘Things We Haven’t Finished Saying Yet’

By Judy Clabes
KyForward editor


(Second of two parts)


Now, 2014 Graduates, that you fully understand the first 10 rules-to-take-with-you on your bold journey into life, we want to share the rest. We want your journey to be wonderful and meaningful and, mostly, one that will help you accomplish what you want to be – and who you want to be – in life. Understand that those who love you, as we do, will always be there for you – and, likely, will always have things to say we won’t ever finish saying that will provide the encouragement you need along the way. For now, consider this . . .


(KyForward file photo)

(KyForward file photo)

Eleven: Be convinced of your priorities A wise Kentucky woman once said, “If I had my life to live over, I’d like to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. . .I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would ride more merry-go-’rounds. I would pick more daisies.” Think seriously about your choices – and play them forward. Will you be wishing, looking back from the end of the long road, that you had picked more daisies or taken more chances or had a little more fun?

Twelve: Chickens come home to roost. Our grandmas would have said it that way. The Chinese say it like this: “If you don’t change your direction, where you are headed is where you’re going to end up.” Be certain you are working toward what it is you really want. If you aren’t, be wise enough to change course. You have the advantage of an educated mind. You can adjust your direction. We’re forewarned that, given the speed of change in today’s world, that you may change careers any number of times during your working life, and when your work is done you will have plenty of time to change directions in retirement as well. Thrive and be revitalized by change. Embrace it as a natural part of your life. Your choices along the way and those you’ll have to live with.

Thirteen: Seek a balance. Success is not a goal. It’s something that happens along the way to a goal. Money is not a goal. It’s what can happen when a goal is something of worth and quality. Lasting personal relationships are a necessary part of the balance. Success, money, fame – may not result in personal happiness or fulfillment. You have to get this right.

Fourteen: A mind is a terrible thing to waste in self-pity, self-indulgence, and selfishness. None of this “self” centered stuff is fertile soil for nurturing more productive thoughts and actions. They get in the way of real progress. Even when things are at their worst, you cannot indulge yourself by falling into this black pit. Remind yourself often that if attitude isn’t everything, it’s most of it.

Fifteen: Be nice to everyone. It’s really that simple. How you treat people matters. All people, not just those you think impact your opportunities or are “important” or influential. All people matter, there are no “classes” of human beings and a truly decent person does not play that game. Related to this is another rule: To get ahead, you have to do good work. There is no substitute for it, even playing up to the powers that be.


(Creative Commons)

(Creative Commons)

Sixteen: If ever you think you are the only one in the traffic jam, it’s time for a reality check. Stress kills. Before it kills, it mains and numbs and makes you think stupid things – like you are put-upon or alone in your frustrations. When you start to think it’s only about you, take a break. Go pick those daisies. Know when.

Seventeen: Truth emerges from the conflict of ideas. Nobody knows it all, including you. Too often, we haven’t even suspected the truth yet. Celebrate the diversity that makes our country great, embrace it fully and respect it for everyone. Freedom is nothing but a chance to do better. We seek perfection through raucous exchange of ideas and opinions about things for which no one has the complete answer. Democracy is hard, dirty work. Cacophony is its music. It cannot survive, a wise man said, if we are not as capable of outrage at injustices to others as we are of outrage at injustice to ourselves. Each of us is responsible for making things better for everyone. It isn’t the men against the women, the rich against the poor, one race against another, or divisions by religion or color . . It’s the rest of us against the jerks. Are you opening up your mind and heart and actions? Are you drawing a circle to take everyone in?

Eighteen: Give back. Just by virtue of a good education, you are blessed. By the luck of being born into or coming to a free country, you are blessed. Way ahead of the rest. You have had advantages, regardless of how you got them or what you made of them or how hard you worked for them. Nobody does anything alone. With advantages come responsibilities. Give a smile, always – it’s a powerful gift. Give a hand up when you can. Give back as part of a purposeful life. Churchill said it best: We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

Nineteen: You can come home again. Go out into the world. Enjoy. Embrace. Go with the secure knowledge that you can come home again to the place you started and to the people who will rejoice in your coming. It may be the place you want to always be, and that’s OK too – another choice you can make. The place will always be part of you, regardless.


Here, we’ll share a favorite passage from a book you likely read once – or had read to you – The Wind in the Willows in which a jubilant Mole has returned after a long absence to his humble home: Soon (he) had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But before he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on all the familiar and friendly things. . .He saw clearly how plain and simple – how narrow even – it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on the sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to it. But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.

Finally: We love you. Yes, we repeat ourselves, on purpose. This is our first message to you and it’s the last – and lasting. We love you first, last, always and forever.

Judy Clabes is editor and publisher of KyForward. This is an update from a booklet, “Things I Haven’t Finished Saying Yet,” she published several years ago. The booklet will be re-released later this year. If you have advice you’d like to see included, please email judy@kyforward.com

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