Observations Vol. CLXXXV

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By Chris Cosci

In every family, there's a sibling, cousin, niece or nephew that, no matter how old he or she gets, you always remember as being a little kid. For me, that family member is my sister. For 22 years, I have watched my sister grow from a Cheerio-scarfing toddler to a competitive gymnast to a terrific aunt and Godmother. This weekend, I get to witness the next step in her life -- her college graduation. Nevertheless, I just can't shake the feeling that she's still that little twerp I could lift on my shoulders and launch across my parents' swimming pool.

In a few days, she'll be waiting among a sea of caps and gowns to receive her diploma. At some point, an honored guest will stand before the crowd and deliver a speech that should inspire the graduates and provide them with information they can use throughout their lives. As an older brother, I feel that this is something I should be doing for my sister, albeit without the formality of standing at a podium.

I can't suggest that I've been an ideal role model for my sister. After all, I am the older brother who used to amuse her by driving on the wrong side of the road. Still, I'd like to think that there are some words of wisdom I could share with her at this point in her life.

However, I keep coming up empty. What could I possibly say? I don't have any words of wisdom -- I leave those for coffee mugs and posters with mountains on them. I don't know any big secrets of life. Actually, I don't think there are any big secrets of life. If there were, who exactly is keeping all of these secrets and why won't they reveal them? What if there are no secrets? What if people are devoting their entire lives to uncovering some big secret, only to find out that there's to nothing to uncover?

Everybody has some advice on what it takes to succeed in life. Bookstores have entire aisles filled with tips and strategies. Of course, if all of these methods really worked, don't you think we'd all be successful by now? The problem is, everybody is different. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another person.

Still, people are constantly looking for something that will make them stand apart from the crowd. They'll read the books that teach them so-called "tricks" for success. Ironically, in their attempt to separate themselves from the crowd, they're molding themselves into exact copies of the thousands of other people who read the same book. They sacrifice the one thing that made them stand out in the first place: individuality.

Instead of searching for the answers to unknown questions, maybe we should just focus on what we do know. For example, life is hard. There's no getting around that. No matter what stage of life we're in, we always want to be at another stage. When we're kids, we want to be older so that we can stay up late. When we're teenagers, we want to be at college so that we can have more freedom. When we're adults, we want to be kids again so that we don't have to worry about the stress of work and bills.

Most people like to talk about how graduates are leaving college and entering the "real world." This implies that college is a fake world, which, unless you went to a college inhabited by unicorns and leprechauns, is usually not the case. The world is always real, whether you're in college, in pre-school or in retirement. It won't always be easy, but it should never be dull.

So what could I tell my sister? Nothing. Besides, she probably wouldn't listen to me anyway. However, I would leave her with one thought. No matter how hard life can be, there's always one thing you can turn to: family. For her, I will always be there -- waiting to lift her on my shoulders and throw her across the pool.