"Are we there yet?" This is the theme of the 2018 yearbook: "Are we there yet?" When I first saw these words, printed in white on the corner of my yearbook, I had to pause and think. Were they referring to graduation? Although our class has been anticipating this day, it is a bittersweet moment. I don't know about you, but I'm not in a such a rush to get out the door. That's why we think fondly of our memories at Donovan Catholic. We reminisce about the stellar seasons of the girls' volleyball and boys' wrestling teams, the magnificent plays we've either staged with vigor or watched with rapture, the senior class's victory at Anything Goes, and the great colleges we have been accepted to. We think of the cheerful smiles of our teachers and the arduous journey from lockers in the basement to the 400s.
But when I hear, "Are we there yet?" I think of the occasional drudgery of high school. Sometimes we struggled with classes. We had to survive the college process, only to battle senioritis as we took finals. And just when we thought the work was over, we had to practice for graduation!
But that's not what "Are we there yet?" is supposed to mean. It is easy to stifle yourself with mishaps, boredom, and monotony. It is easy to become impatient, only focused on the end result. It is easy to be the whining kid in the back seat of the car, begging for the ride to finally be over. It is easy to want to escape the inescapable human condition. The 2018 yearbook theme does express our exasperation and angst, but it is also a reminder to enjoy the journey.
As you saunter down the street (perhaps with your chin confidently held high, or perhaps with your eyes glued to the ground), contemplate the people around you--who they are, what might be happening in their lives, who you could get to know better, whose day you could make. Search for the opportunities where you have the time and resources to march one step closer to your dream. When we glide around on autopilot, we often miss so much. And yet we are fixated on finality, an endpoint, a black-and-white solution.
Today I invite you to relish the moment. We were reminded to do this every day at school when we stood for prayers. We are called to awareness of the present. We are travelling into the future at the speed of 3 million 6 hundred thousand milliseconds per hour. We can't make that pace any faster or slower. But we can live each moment. Shift your brain from autopilot to manual. There is so much more to discover, and indeed create, in each moment because now you are at the wheel and in control of how you respond to life. Now you are vigilant and will not let any opportunity go unseized.
As we move on to colleges and careers, mindfulness will energize us, guide us, and guard us. Because guess what? We will never be there! You know it as well as I do. Life is propelled by the constant turnover of bucket lists, milestones, dreams, and goals. No matter how much we accomplish, the daily difficulties persist. We will never run out of "there"-s to get to. But we are here. Here with our classmates, our best friends, our teachers, and our families. We must celebrate the joys and victories in life, both monumental and microscopic. If the elusive "there"-s never end, neither do the blessings.
You might not bring your yearbook with you to college, but you will carry more from Donovan than you think. Our faith will follow us. The lessons in humbleness, compassion, and integrity will direct us for life. It's like learning how to tie your shoes. When you trip and stumble, you look down and see your shoelaces are untied. But you never forget how to fix them; you have spent four years "tying" them until it has become second-nature. This is what we learned through our faith community and commitment to service. When I first started high school, I had no experience of Christian service or the Catholic faith. Some of you may have begun in the same place. Then for four years, our class matured together as we gathered for mass and started every event with a prayer. For four years, our class developed together as we volunteered at Ocean County Hunger Relief, played with children at the Interfaith Hospitality Home, built new houses for people in need, and undertook countless other service projects. We will not stop now. We have formed the habit of putting our faith into action. Sometimes it felt like a chore if we ignored the beauty of the present moment, but we all know the fulfillment of immersing ourselves in an act of service, no matter how simple. We are not servants to ourselves; that's the side effect of focusing on "there." You can't see untied shoelaces if you're always looking ahead. Rather, we are caretakers of the world; that's achieved by being "here."
As we walk up and take our diplomas, we should think of them as a symbol. We are not being handed a piece of paper, or a reward, or a ticket to the graduation parties. We are being handed an opportunity. We have big dreams. And there's a big world out there that needs those dreams. Using, living, each moment to the fullest is what makes those dreams reality. So, "are we there yet?" Maybe for now, but not for long. Thank you.