Life from a Novelist point of view
This was a speech made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anna Quindlen atthe graduation ceremony of an American university where she was awarded an Honorary PhD.
"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don'tEver confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out of herethis 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 thousandsof people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the onlyperson 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 acar, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life ofyour 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 towrite a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold comfort on awinter'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 neverto let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer considermyself the centre of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I ama good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean whatthey say. I am a good friend to my friends and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboardcut out. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I would berotten, 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.
Sohere's what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real life, not a manicpursuit 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 aneurysmone afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on abreeze 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 concentrationwhen 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. Andrealize 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 tospread it around. Take money you would have spent on beer and give it tocharity.
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 beenough.It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes. Itis 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 isso easy to exist instead of to live.I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not thedestination. 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 worldand try to give some of it back because I believed in it, completely andutterly. 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 thefuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the back yard 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 lived".