Dear Graduate

“Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.” — Nora Ephron


Dear Graduate,

Congratulations! You’ve earned your diploma or degree and you’re on your way! Everyone is asking, “What will you be doing now? Where are going? Do you have a job?” The questions are well-meaning but relentless. The pressure feels immense.

You smile, nod and try to answer. Perhaps you’re stepping forward with confidence and conviction, goals outlined and a plan of action in place. But what if you’re not? What if you’re wavering, uncertain, concerned you’ll never know what you ‘should’ be doing?

First of all, that’s okay.

Most of us have felt that way, even those who don’t dare admit it. And guess what? Many of us don’t end up where we’d thought we be. That’s okay too — and actually often better than we imagined.

Trust that everything will work out.

If I could go back and chat with myself as I set out after high school and university, I would share that reassurance and these words of advice:

  1.   You aren’t required to have all the answers now. A specific life goal isn’t   necessary — you simply need a path to follow. Sometimes that starts with   knowing what you don’t want.
  2.   As you head down your path, know it’s okay to veer off and change direction.   Be determined but flexible.
  3.   Every stage of education is a stepping stone, a building block, leading you   where you’re meant to be. It is all worthwhile.
  4.   Ignore the pressure and expectations you feel from peers, teachers, parents   and society. Do what you love. Know that may change over time.
  5.   Believe in your abilities — to learn, to grow, to find your way. Don’t  compare your journey to that of others’.  This is yours. Own it.
  6.   Value and nurture the friendships you make along the way. Surround yourself  with positive people — those who lift you up and encourage you — especially when you fall. Keep your circle strong.
  7.   Always do your best, give 100% — not only in the things you love, but in those tasks or jobs which are bridges to your goals.
  8.   Be respectful and kind — even when those courtesies are not extended to you.
  9.   Trust when someone sees potential in you that you don’t even know exists. Take the chance when pushed outside your comfort zone. You’ll find out you’re far more capable than you knew.
  10.   Be open to new opportunities. Ask, “If I don’t do this now, will I regret it?” Let your inner voice guide you — it will not let you down.
  11.   Don’t be afraid to ask — questions, for help, for clarification — even for a raise or a promotion.
  12.   Never stop learning — personally or professionally.
  13.   No matter where you are, get involved with your community. Give  back in   whatever way you can. It is as good for you as for those you’re helping.
  14.  Take a break and recharge your batteries when needed. Enjoy the journey. Take the detours. The greatest rewards are often from the unplanned events in our lives.
  15. ‘Success’ does not depend on the opinion of others. Let your values and convictions guide you to your own definition of success.

So dear graduate aside set any fears and anxieties. Enjoy the celebrations. Graciously accept all the congratulations. Answer questions the best way you can, knowing you don’t have to give the ‘final answer’.

Take a deep breath, start down your path and simply put one foot in front of the other. Go after those new opportunities.

And remember, even when it feels like it isn’t working out, eventually it will. In time, you will get to where you are meant to be.

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Anna’s Poppies

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  Since 1911 this annual event has celebrated women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements.  Women’s groups from all around the world, take part in thousands of diverse events to commermorate IWD.

It is not only a time to reflect and look to the future, but also a time to encourage and uplift each other.  For me, Anna K. Storgaard, a university professor turned life-long friend,  was a woman who exemplified encouragement and support.  

She cheered me on, no matter where I was, or what I was doing in my life. I think of her often, and am grateful for the positive influence she had on my life. 

The following tribute was written in  2010 for the Brucedale Press Acrostic Contest.  The judge commented, “A sense of quiet dignity and restrained mourning characterizes this third-place story.” 


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Adored by many who visited her garden, Anna’s poppies now grace my flowerbed. Because I had admired them on my last visit, she insisted I dig some up to take home.

Care had to be taken, as late June is far from ideal for transplanting perennials. Dedicated gardeners would have shuddered as I dug in the late afternoon heat, but I am thankful I did not pass on the opportunity. Every year when they bloom I am reminded of my friendship with Anna.

20160306_134055For twenty-two years after my university graduation we kept in touch, mostly through Christmas cards and letters. Giving her annual updates on jobs, family and friends always resulted in enthusiastic and encouraging responses.

Having been a professor for over thirty years, she deeply touched the lives of many with her avocation for nurturing. I feel fortunate to have known her, been accepted as I was, and forever cheered on as I made my way in life.

Jovial in nature, she seemed to appreciate my quirky sense of humour. Kindred spirits, some would say. Laughter was always welcome in her classroom making the lessons learned enjoyable and memorable.

University of Manitoba

Modest through and through,  Anna would have been uncomfortable with the many accolades expressed at her memorial service. No one was prepared to lose this remarkable spirit who embraced life with humour, curiosity, determination and dedication. One person can indeed make a difference as our dear Anna so aptly proved.

People of all ages and from all walks of life benefited from knowing her, whether as a teacher, colleague, neighbour, community member or friend. Quietly she slipped away from us but forever she will hold a special place in our hearts.

Recalling memories of Anna in her flower garden that lovely June afternoon brings me comfort. She welcomed me to sit with her amongst the vibrant blooms, sip lemonade and reminisce of days gone by. Time passed quickly as we shared stories, laughed and talked of our passion for all things green and growing.

Undaunted by her macular degeneration, she continued to garden, coping with laughter when things went awry. Venturing into her garden late one day resulted in Anna falling bottom first into a hole intended for a new plant. Without hesitation she quipped, “If my neighbours hadn’t come to my rescue, I wonder if I would have bloomed before the first killing frost!” X-rays revealed no broken bones so all was well with the bonus being an entertaining story to share.

HPIM2966Years have now passed and I still miss Anna, especially when Christmas arrives and the first card I receive is not from her. Zestfully she lived her life and as I gaze at the brilliant blossoms dancing playfully in my garden, I remember her with admiration, fondness and a smile.


 Anna Storgaard photo courtesy of University of Manitoba