Friday, October 09, 2009

Pulitzer prize awardee speech.

This was a speech made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anna Quindlen at the graduation ceremony of an Amercian university where she was awarded an Honorary PhD.
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"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know.

Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out
of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There
will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree: there will
be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you
will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your
particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk or
your life on a bus or in a car or at the computer. Not just the life
of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank accounts
but also your soul.

People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much
easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold
comfort on a winter's night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely,
or when you've received your test results and they're not so good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried
never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no
longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I
listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried
to make marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to my
friends and them to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to
you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out. But I call them on
the phone and I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at best
mediocre, at my job if those other things were not true.

You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you
are. So here's what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real
life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay
cheque, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about
those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon or found a lump in
your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself
on a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a
red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or the way a baby scowls with
concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and
first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who
love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Pick up
the phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Get a life in which you are
generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you
have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its
goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have
spent on beer and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big
brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do
good too, then doing well will never be enough.

It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our
minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the colour of our kids'
eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears
and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of to live.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not
the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that
today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good
in the world and try to give some of it back because I believed in it,
completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling
others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider the lilies
of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in your balcony
with the sun on your face.

Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if
you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be

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