"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." — Oprah Winfrey
My long-time friend, Peter Sauriol, once told me the story of when he received his Associate’s Degree from Springfield Technical Community College. When his grandmother heard the news she asked him when the graduation party would be, and when she learned that he wasn’t planning on having a party she insisted on it, saying:
“It’s important to celebrate not only the big things, but the small things too, every opportunity that we get.”
He knew right away that she was right. Accomplishing anything of value will only truly have the value that we ascribe to it, so he took her advice and had a graduation party. He later told me that it comes with the added benefit of getting extra money!
When I was a student at Salem State University I took a class called The Philosophy of Happiness. The professor, Dr. Michael Mulnix, was a dynamic teacher, and one day he spoke of a topic that stuck me so much that I wanted to try and disprove it. He said that people tend to be disappointed by things that they are looking forward to because they imagine the wrong event, so when the event finally arrives it tends to not match up with their anticipated expectations.
As an example, he told us that, compared to our expectations, graduation day will be a disappointment. All the hard work we did as undergrad students leads up to a day where we sit for hours listening to long-winded speeches, and then wait in line to get a piece of paper as a certificate of attendance. Not exactly the fireworks we imagine!
I decided that I wanted to combat disappointment by going into graduation day with other plans—bigger plan—so that when I looked back on the day I’d remember them all and be amazed that they all fit together on that one special day when I finally receive a college degree. After all, it was a big deal that I was receiving a Bachelors Degree. Not only was I getting it eleven years later than originally anticipated, but I was also the first on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family to receive a college education. Receiving the degree was a special honor not to be taken lightly, so I went into that day with big plans and an open mind.
I started the day at 5:00am by running a 5k in Elm Park in Worcester, MA. It didn’t matter that no one else was running it with me, because it enabled me to be both first and last. Then I made the drive to Salem, but along the way I stopped for gas at the Natick rest stop where I met Derrick, a truck driver who was abandoning his truck so he could fly back home to Georgia to attend his daughter’s graduation. Only thing was, he needed a ride to the airport. I was abundantly early for my own graduation so I happily drove him to Logan. After dropping him off at the airport I made it to Salem to meet up with my friend Andy Lightning for breakfast at Red’s—my favorite Salem diner—where we enjoyed a riveting breakfast and a delicious conversation. After breakfast I met up with my friend Alison and we took a stroll through downtown before I finally headed over to the university where I participated in the graduation ceremony. The highlight of the day, though, was later that afternoon when I jumped out of an airplane over Smithfield, RI. I was still wearing the suit I wore to graduation and it was just such a thrill! After landing I headed to my hometown of Palmer where I presented a performance if my new show It’s A Magical Life at the Palmer Historical and Cultural Center. To cap off the day I had dinner at The Ninety Nine Restaurant then called it a day.
In all, my graduation day was most certainly a day that exceeded all expectations. But it was only such a bug celebration because I made it so. I decided to celebrate the day in a way that would make that special day truly memorable. The Magic Word Celebrate reminds us that no matter how big or small the occasion, just being alive is reason enough to celebrate.
What can you do today to honor every moment for the celebration that life is? What can you do today so that you don’t just go through the motions of life, but rather become are truly grateful for the opportunity to be here?
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.