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To the Graduate

May 19, 2015

Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA 


My oldest is graduating from grade school next month. She started at Gladwyne Elementary three years ago, after moving from CT, and quickly formed deep friendships and got settled in a school that always felt like home. Six years ago I watched her march into the doors of wonderful Riverside School, pink dress, pink bow and backpack, shoulders hunched forward, and pensive look. She was swallowed up by the doors of the elementary years and now emerges from a different set of doors with confidence and grace.








Graduations are endings and beginnings, always bittersweet. I don’t know what Middle School will hold her for, but I do know her she will meet any and all challenges head on, and is well equipped in every way. My Maggie is elegance and grace expressed. And she carries that into everything she does – on the track field, at lacrosse, playing the piano or violin, and her artistic writing. Her quirky sense of humor keeps us all laughing, and her deep compassion and ability to feel how others are feeling is a gift to us all. I can always count on her to lighten any sibling tension with humor and reason. Her brother and sister emulate everything she does and I am deeply grateful for such a stellar role model for them.

Life is a series of endings and beginnings. And graduation marks them with ceremony and celebrating. Doors open, others close. Maggie, this post is for you, and what I hope to share with you is what I have learned (I still have a lot to go!). Most importantly, I hope that how I live my life every day teaches you far more than you could learn in books or this post. My goal as a mother is to be a living and breathing example of how to be for all of you.

I thank you because you, my dear, made me a Mom! And being a mother has taught me and formed me the most in this life. The experience of loving beyond all comprehension has awakened me, to me. I don’t know it all but I know this much is true. What I have learned….

That life isn’t a straight path. It is a great adventure and the best part is knowing that the future is untold, anything can happen, and something wonderful is waiting for you around the bend.

I have learned to not pray for an easy life but for strength and fortitude. I have learned it is easy to be strong and know it all when everything is going your way – real character, true strength is revealed when it isn’t going your way. Adversity builds muscle, be grateful for it.

The only way out, is going in, and if you do the work, life will unfold with breathtaking majesty.

If you search for truth, you will find it.  Forgive everyone, and everything. Forgiveness is the most liberating thing you can do. And a truly selfish act – to forgive another is to set yourself free.

Understand that when people are cruel, or deceitful, or shallow or vain, or selfish that it is all they know. If they knew better, they would do better! You forgive them for not knowing any better.

And here is the catch – because you know better, you do better, and you forgive. And express deep gratitude for your compassion, and perspective, and the strength and grace you have blessed with. Not everyone is so lucky.

Always say you are sorry, and mean it.

Work hard, and do your best every day, and leave it at that.

Don’t take anything personally. How people act, what they say, is a refection of them. Not you.

I have learned that when someone shows you who they truly are – believe them, and move on. Quickly. And be grateful for the lesson that they were in your life.

There are no accidents, life is for you and nothing happens to you. Ask, what am I supposed to learn from this experience. What is being asked of me.

Acceptance is the path to peace.

Faith is the cornerstone for your life. It will truly see you through anything. It is a tremendous gift. Nourish it, be grateful for it.

The way to receive is to give. If you are feeling glum, or down, the best thing you can do is do something for someone else. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or serve the poor. It will change your mood and perspective. Immediately.

Be a healing presence to others. Be a light in the darkness. Speaks words of hope.

If someone shows you kindness, or cruelty, treat them both the same. For the person who is cruel may be teaching you far more than you could ever learn from the person who is kind. Don’t confuse that with accepting the cruelty. Don’t ever allow anyone to treat you unkind, never, never, never. Simply live your life showing kindness to everyone. When people are mean it is because they have a deep hurt inside. They are broken. And maybe your kindness can help fix that. The other lesson is this (I know, I tell you all the time) be loving and kind to yourself.  You can’t give away what you don’t have. So be kind, be forgiving to you, and then share that with others.

Life is the great oxymoron. What you think will kill you, will save you. Embrace everything life sends your way. Sometimes what you think are the worst things end up being the best.

Don’t let anyone define you. You define you. When someone tries to tell you who you are or who you should be, move on, quickly.

Think about what sets you apart from others, what makes you unique and protect that, honor that, this is where your genius lies.

As I tell you every night: There has never been anyone born just like you born. You are a tremendous gift to this world. Shine.

Find your tribe. Friends are truly one of the greatest gifts. They are more valuable than any material  good. Nourish your friendships, and make time for them. Friends can see you through anything.

You will come across false friends. When they show you who they are, believe them, and forgive them. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever and that is okay. Some are, others aren’t. If someone is hurting you or mean, they are there for a reason, and a season, not forever. Send them peace and move on.

Have a diverse group of friends – your sports friends, you artsy friends, funny friends, church friends. Like flowers in a garden, diversity is a beautiful and wonderful thing.

Laugh at your troubles, don’t take yourself or life too seriously. Everything passes.

Laughter is the great medicine. Use it as much as you possibly can.

Enjoy the simple things – fresh flowers, sunsets and sunrises, shadows, and birds nests. Take the time to notice, and be slow. The best things in life are free.

Family is everything.

Gold is tested in fire, diamonds and pearls only form from pressure. If you have hardships, like our lovely Cinderella, it must mean only two things. 1. You are a diamond. 2. You are a true princess.

Gratitude and kindness are cornerstones for your life. Gratitude for all the gifts we are given and kindness is love expressed. Love is a verb. Always listen to what people show you. For what they show you says far more than their words ever could.

Lead with your strengths, and your own light and power. Focus on your gifts, what you bring. We can’t be all things. But we can be extraordinary at some things. Those things are your center – feed them – nourish them, make time for them. They are oxygen for your soul.

Realize that you are a lense through which you see the world. Have an awareness about your perception and know when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

It is not our job to judge others. After all, we have no idea where someone is coming from, going through, been through, or headed. It’s our job to accept others.

You attract more bees with honey.

Things I learned the hard way…. always, always, always follow your instincts! They are never wrong. Like never. If you are weighing a decision and your rational thought (what is perceived as rational thought) says one thing and your gut something different – always go with your gut! Even if it doesn’t make sense. Especially if it doesn’t make sense. And remember, there isn’t anything in life we can’t change or fix. The only thing that is truly permanent is death. All else is up for grabs.

Life is a journey, we are students, here to learn, and grow. Live your life, learn your lessons. And when you learned them, share them with the people. The student becomes the teacher.

When one door closes, another opens. Your life is not going to look like everyone else’s. Its not supposed to, it is your life, your path, not theirs.

Life is a series of choices. Own your choices and be responsible for them which could mean a course adjustment, mending, tending, or fully embracing.

Sometimes when you are too close to something it is hard to see it for what it is. That is what sisters, and those life giving, amazing girlfriends we have are for. They are our bifocals, our advocates, and confidants, and loyal advisers. True sisters and friends.

And be someone’s bifocals, and advocate, confidant, and adviser. Be a friend to others.

And most importantly, listen. So often all someone really needs is for someone to listen, and understand. And to know you are in their corner and there for them. That alone is a tremendous gift.

Whatever the question, whatever the challenge, or gift or blessing or hardship, whatever you are asking, there is only one answer. The answer is always love. Love is what we are called to do, even when it is hard, especially when it is hard. In the end, it is all that truly matters.

And finally, when you graduated from the 4’s program at First Church Preschool in Old Greenwich CT, you sang the Kindergarten Wall. The words are as true today as they were then. I share them with you all below!

Go forth to serve and Godspeed beautiful darling girl!

The Kindergarten Wall: 







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