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Kent Bernhardt: What I’d like to tell my former self

I told a group of college students this week, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I said it with a straight face, so I think they bought it.

Actually, I believe that to be a true statement.  It’s right up there with “You can’t scratch your right elbow with your right hand.”  I’ll pause here while a couple of you actually try it.

I’m living proof of that statement – the one about work, not the elbow quote. I flirted with the idea of working in other professions, but deep in my heart I always knew what I wanted to do: talk, write and sing.

We’ve just finished watching a lot of high school and college students receive diplomas that represent the end of one journey and the beginning of another.  It is my theory that they’re handed these diplomas at a time in their lives when few of them know with certainty what they really want to do with the next forty-plus years.

I was told during my teen years that we make three huge decisions in our lives – the three “M’s”:  Master, Mission, and Mate.

They should be made in that order, I was told, because your choice of Master determines your Mission, and possibly your Mate.

If your choice of Master turns out to be money, then your mission will be built around that choice, and your mate will probably have a rich father who doesn’t like you.

So it follows that if you choose God as your Master, your mission may be quite different, as will your mate – if you have one at all. It’s all very simple, yet complicated in its simplicity.

Did I just write that?

In reality, all of this heavy thinking is being directed at students who are more concerned with the Snapchat they’re viewing than they are with the direction of their lives.

I was really no different when I was their age.  I had my three “M’s” all mixed up. I was so focused on my interest in a potential Mate that the Master and Mission part was pretty hazy. Such is the tale of many a high school student facing college.

The fog would lift in the coming years, but it was a distraction I would regret. In fact, there are times I wish I could grab hold of my former self and shake him up a little.

Aside from taking a moment to admire his thick, wavy hair, I would admonish him to get his priorities in order.

I would also tell him to stop focusing on the past and the future, but to treat every day like a new adventure full of wonder.

It’s the same thing you did while you were drooling all over yourself in your crib. Each day was a new miracle, and now was the only thing that mattered.  One day, you discovered fingers, and the next day — “Whoa, look at that — toes!”

Life never stops handing you that miracle every day when you take time to look for it. The sooner you realize that, the happier and more fulfilled you’ll be regardless of the mission you choose.

I would also remind him that your education never stops, so quit making bold predictions about what you’ll do when you’re finally out of school. You may not be sitting in a physical classroom the rest of your life, but you’re always in school.


Finally, I would hand him a few bits of simple wisdom, like “Whenever you think you’re broke, there’s always enough change under the couch cushions for a cheeseburger.”

And I would tell him the thick, wavy hair is only temporary. One day, you’ll have children of your own that will cause it to turn gray and fall out.

Well, maybe I should hold that one back. That’s too much reality for one visit.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.


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