Sunday, April 13, 2014

Don't Worry—Be Happy

I'm doing my first commencement speech in a few weeks.  I'm a bit nervous.  Over the last fifteen
years, I've talked to a lot of writers and a lot of readers, but I've never had to talk to a group of people who're all opening a new chapter of their lives on the same day.

With four kids, I've sat through a lot of graduations and I know I have more in my future.  I tried to think of all the commencement speeches I’ve heard.  So many seem to center on the speaker telling the audience about their experience.  Well, I’m a wife, a mother and a writer.  There.  Nailed that.
The other speeches seem to center on, AS YOU GO OUT AND MEET YOUR FUTURE sort of tips.  I think it's a bit cheeky to offer insights on people's personal paths. So, I thought about it, and finally came up with my theme, something that speaks to everyone, regardless of their career path...HAPPINESS.

Yeah, some of you are rolling your eyes. I'm sure the graduates will as well.

But I’ve made a study of happiness for years.  My Facebook friends would tell you I’m a bit nuts with my Monday Glee topics.   Yes, I like Mondays.  They’re a rather overlooked day.  But for me, Mondays are the aftermath of a crazy, family filled weekend.  Everyone goes back to school, or work and I sit in the quiet house, in holey jeans and work…in silence.  What’s not to love?

But more than my Monday Glee, my inspiration came from a TED radio hour I listened to on NPR in February.  The subject was happiness.  I even joined a study on being happy.  3 times a day I’d get a text and it would ask me how I was feeling, then ask me what I was doing, did I have to be doing it and then some other random questions.   It would ask me to rate my happiness level. After the first few days, I made a discovery…I am very happy with my life.

The text message ding would sound… 
~How are you feeling?  Good.  Really good.
~What are you doing?  Writing.
~Do you have to be doing it? Yes.  I’m under contract and it needs done.  Although, my grandmother always said the only two things anyone has to do is die and pay taxes.  I’m not sure why she always put death before taxes—mom says that's just how the saying goes.  I guess I could choose not to work, but I kinda like eating and that’s my paycheck, so yes, I have to do it.

Now, here comes the big question…
Do you like doing it?  And I realized I did.  I like what I do.  Oh, there are bad days.  There are times I think about finding a real job.  You know, the kind you do out in the real world, with real people, wearing something other than holey jeans.  But after the annoyance passes, I realize I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

So, that’s the first part of being happy talk.  As my upcoming audience is finishing school and I plan to remind them to take a few moments every day and stop. Stop and ask themselves if they're happy doing what they're doing.  If they're answer is yes more than no, then I think they're doing pretty good.  If it’s not, then maybe they haven’t found the place they really belong yet.

Here’s a second Happiness tip I think I'll share…be willing to work hard.  I meet a lot of would-be-writers when I do workshops and speeches.  They all want to know the secret to making a career of writing.  I think they expect some secret handshake, or program that helps me write book.   I tell them that the secret is two part, they wait anxiously for me to share.  Here you go…I’m ready to share it with the graduates and with you. 

Work hard at whatever you’re doing.  Maybe you’re starting at the bottom rung of your profession and hoping to advance.  Having an eye on a goal is always a good idea, but don’t forget to concentrate on where you are.  Work hard at the job at hand.  Enjoy it.  Be happy.

I read an interview with a CEO who climbed the proverbial ladder.  She spoke about always trying to have an impact and enjoying whatever job she was doing.  Maybe there’s something to that.  That's what I plan to tell the graduates.  Work hard at whatever you’re doing.  Have an eye on the future, have goals, but not at the expense of wherever you are and whatever you’re doing at the moment.

When I’m writing a book, I might know what my next book will be, or I might have an idea.  But what I try to do is concentrate on the job in front of me…the story I’m working on.

As a writer, I have to convey my character’s world view to the reader.  I have to cue the reader into   Satisfied, annoyed, content, aggravated, competitive…happy.  As a romance writer, I know that the HAPPY part is important.  It’s so important romance writers end every one of their stories with an HEA…a happily-ever-after.  So as I give my first commencement speech to people who've chosen they're degree, I'll wish them that…a happily-ever-after.  And I hope as they start this next chapter, they stop on occasion and ask themselves, How am I feeling?  What am I doing?  Do I have to be doing it?  Do I want to be doing it?  Do I like doing it?
how that character’s feeling.


And that's what I'm doing with this blog today.  Asking you to ask yourselves those same questions.  I
I hope your answers  give you some insight on your life.  I hope they help you find your own personal, Happily Ever After.

And I hope that this first commencement speech offers some insights to the graduates!  Wish me luck!



Liz Flaherty said...

Great points and it will be a great speech!

HollyJacobs said...

Liz, I so hope so! We've sat through some very…uh, long speeches. I hope they walk away with something from this one.

Sonya said...

I learnt something from this post: what a commencement speech is! I think it’s an American term, but maybe they use it here in Australia… If I’d actually attended any of my graduation ceremonies I might know!

I know what you mean about Mondays, but I think I might enjoy them more than most because of the nature of my work. I know I used to hate them when I was teaching in Korea and had to drag myself out of bed to teach a room full of screaming little kids!

HollyJacobs said...

Hi, Sonya! It's nice to find another Monday lover! I put my love of Mondays in Just One Thing for the friends who know of my Monday Glee! LOL

My son skipped out on his University grad, but otherwise, I've sat through everyone's and some of the talks were long and…very long! LOL I'm so hoping this goes well and I don't put anyone to sleep!