Words for young grads: Find your people; find your voice

Reading and relationships will go a long way toward living a meaningful and fulfilling life.

As you transition towards adulthood, a fair question to ask is how one lives a meaningful and fulfilling life. Most people my age are still searching for that answer, and since no one yet has a definitive answer, I would like to offer my suggestions. I will limit them to just two.

1. Find your people.

I mean real people. Not their screen versions. If your classmates’ grandparents were born in this country, they likely lived in one town, worked for one company, and attended the same house of worship throughout their lives. This stability bred community. They found their people. Your lives will be quite different. You will meet many new people in class, clubs, sports, jobs, etc. from all over the world. Real people. And real people need to connect, and connecting means sharing. If you find ways to connect – share interests, meals, work, events – keep it up – make it a regular thing.

As trust builds and intimacy develops, you will learn about these people’s backgrounds and their families and their goals and values and aspirations. But remember this is about sharing, and that means you have to be willing to share these things about yourself, too. There are few things in life more meaningful and fulfilling than wholesome, trusting relationships with others. People who tell you when you are wrong in a supportive and loving way. People whose opinion you value most at life’s crossroads. People with whom to share your greatest triumphs and your most heart-wrenching losses. These people are more important than your college or career. Yet we typically tend to work harder at the latter than the former. That needs to change. You need to change that.

2. Find your voice.

This has become a cliche because anyone with a Twitter account seems to believe they have a voice even when they have nothing to say. So how do you “Find Your Voice?” Well, since you know how to read…read.

There is nothing more interesting, intriguing, employable and enjoyable and sexy than a well-read person.

Do you know why so many parents are in book clubs today? Because they were too young and dumb to realize to have done all that reading sooner. Don’t waste 30 years for the epiphany that a good book makes you a better person. And as you read all these different books, you’ll find your writing not only improves, but it’s actually enjoyable, therapeutic, and an effective tool to advocate, educate, and motivate.

Writing can give voice to something important that helps you or other people. And all that reading provides you a perspective and a confidence that inspires people to pay attention to your voice. Unlike some who know how to read but who choose not to, you will have something to say. That would qualify as fulfilling and meaningful. And it all starts with reading.

Now that you are well-read and a great (or better than most) writer with all the aforementioned benefits accruing, and you invested time and energy in developing deep and meaningful relationships, you indeed are on a path to enjoying a fulfilling life.

So can we wrap a bow on this and say “here endeth the lesson”? Yes — but — life is messy and unpredictable and challenging. Yes — and — you will be intellectually and emotionally equipped to face these challenges.

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