An Open Letter to the Graduates (and the rest of us)

Dear Graduates:

It is possible to live a life other than your own.

What I mean is this: You have one life. You can choose to do anything you want and study and learn whatever you want. People, places, things and thoughts are all possibilities, but if you do not learn who you are, then you will get to the end of your life and feel the pain of never living your own. You will live the duration of your life but not know the joy of becoming you.

One of life’s most holy discoveries is finding who you are. Not just your talents or quirks, but you. The true, holy, divine you that is made in the image of God.

To make this discovery, though, you have to learn the art of self-actualization.

You have to learn yourself. Fall in love with the person God made you to be. You are not damaged goods. You are not made with less spark or less energy or less image than others. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God loves you as much as anything in the world. God instilled in you gifts, so learn them, fall in love with them, and use them in the days ahead.

I remember graduating (many years ago). I wasted countless amounts of energy pretending to be who I thought the world needed me to be. I could walk into ten different rooms and be ten different people, none of whom were the real Barrett.

It took years to admit to this behavior. It took reflecting on broken relationships and failed attempts at authenticity to see it; but when I did, it changed my life.

I used to stay up late stressing over hypothetical encounters based on half-truths I had told to make myself look better. It was exhausting keeping up the facade. When others called me out on it, I would lie again saying I thought the world would reject me if they knew the real me. But the truth was, I did not know any better. I could not live authentically because I did not know who I was.

The art of self-actualization is a spiritual exercise that identifies who you are and the gifts God created you with. It teaches you to love yourself and use your gifts for good.

I hope you are able to do this faster than I was because the thought of living a life other than your own is now a tragedy to me.

I have a son and daughter. I think about how they encounter the world every day. What I want, more than anything, is for them to engage it with wonder and joy.

I do not care if either ever picks up a baseball, performs on stage or cures cancer. Any of these things would be amazing, and I would be proud of them. More than accomplishments, though, I want to instill in them the ability to see the potential of life and to engage it with wonder and joy.

For them to do this, they are going to have to learn who they truly are, a child of God.

This openness to the potentiality of life is what I want for you, too. You can experience it when you learn to live as the real you. So go. Discover yourself. Fall in love with the person God made you to be. Live your own life, and encounter the world with wonder and joy.

Peace and Joy,


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