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||||||||||||||||| DR MARY HELEN HENSLEY BLOG


10 Graduation:
Explore, Dream, Discover

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you did not do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover…” – Mark Twain
Last week, I had the most wonderful pleasure of addressing the graduating class of 2013 at Carlisle School in Martinsville, Virginia. It was a special day, not only for the honour of having been asked to speak to this exceptional group of young people, but because my father had played a key role at this institution at a time when there were questions of whether or not the school would survive, in the mid 1980’s.
 As a lifelong Martinsville Bulldog, the transition to Carlisle for my last two years of secondary education was a decision I didn’t take lightly. It meant leaving friends that I had known since kindergarten, and moving into unfamiliar territory with a different curriculum, while attempting to carve a new niche at a time when reinventing my academic expectations took a back seat to the vanity and insecurity experienced by most sixteen year olds.
Twenty- six years later, I stood before the group of wide-eyed hopefuls and asked myself,
“What would ‘future me’ tell ‘past me’ that would really make a difference?”
 I found myself gravitating towards the topic of ‘mistakes’. The word mistake is a funny thing, in that for most, it implies something that should have never taken place; A thing that if given a second chance, we would do differently. As I stood in the glorious sunshine with the wind gently blowing; a day that any Irish person would gladly welcome as a grand summer’s day, I realised that I could do nothing greater for these young adults, ready to fly from the nest and take on the world, than encourage them to celebrate ALL things that would take place in their lives. Let’s face it, telling a high school graduate that the beautiful journey that he or she is about to embark on will be nothing but high achievements, great parties and fairy tale romances would simply be untrue. Those of us who have made it this far along can attest to this as fact. Teaching a young person to embrace all experiences; the highs and the lows, the heartbreak and disappointments, the laughter and success… now that’s a life skill they could use.

Somewhere along the way, the idea of success as an individual being based on high academic scores, landing a job with a large bank roll attached, has crept, no, Bull-Dozed its way into the Western psyche. What a terrible deception, a horrible disservice to promoting the concept that the human life experience was meant to be valued on ‘stuff’ rather than substance of character. Why, without a lifelong series of rollercoaster pleasures and pains, I would hardly have had the material to write the story of my life in such a way that would spark interest, stir passions or create opportunities for introspection and growth!
I implored these students of life to look into the eyes of the person next to them; to understand that they are all part of the One. What they would do to another, ultimately they would do to themselves. I explained that I had watched the sun set from atop the Eiffel Tower, ridden a camel train across the desert in Tunisia, made money, lost money, loved deeply, been broken-hearted, and shared a bar-b-que sandwich with my mother in Pigs-R-Us in my hometown; each of them precious and equally important in reminding us to stay present and see the magic in all experiences.
With graduations and celebrations of rites of passage taking place all around us, I remind you to stop the grind every now and again and ask yourself if you are judging a life well lived based solely on the pleasurable returns from the effort of living, or are you embracing every morsel of the chance to live at all?
Twenty-six years after my own high school graduation, I can assure you with very fibre of my being, that if your journey and your choices have allowed you to make it this far, the ONLY things that stand to disappoint ‘future you’ are those experiences that you allow to pass you by because of fear.
Fear is a great catalyst, a very useful frequency at times, prompting us to move out of harm’s way. But when the fear of failure or being judged becomes your focus, the baseline from which you operate, your life has no chance of ever becoming anything beyond a mediocre pile of missed opportunities. To cheat oneself out of loving ALL of life… now THAT is a terrible deception, indeed.
With great love and appreciation for the past, the present and the future adventures… Shine On.

Mary Helen is available for individual sessions:
DUBLIN: Contact Mairead at 087 7468583
BELFAST: Contact Mairead at 087 7468583
ATHLONE: Contact Maureen at 090 6476277



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