By CHARLENE PAUL
I was raised by parents who believed I could do anything. They rarely let me out of a task because I said I can’t. They believed saying I can’t was the same as saying I won’t or worse, I quit. When I would declare that I couldn’t do something, the reply most often was, “Figure it out. The problem is your attitude, not your lack of ability.”
Thirty-two years ago, I was widowed and left with two small boys to raise. Saying I can’t, I won’t, or I quit wasn’t an option. With help from family and friends, I figured it out.
Two years later, I married a man who was willing to take my sons and me as a package deal. Together, we added two more sons and two daughters to our family. As I watched my own parents raise my sister, brothers, and me I – mistakenly – figured they knew what they were doing. Imagine my surprise when I learned that they figured it out as they went. My husband and I did much the same. Sometimes we figured it out pretty well, and sometimes we wanted a do-over.
When I returned to college in the fall of 2007, I was excited and scared. It wasn’t long, however, before I was sure my brain had turned to mush after being out of school for so many years. I was afraid, plain and simple, and I began to entertain I can’t, I won’t, and I quit thoughts.
On one particularly tough evening in Mr. Dalley’s college-level English class, I brought home a quiz with a big, fat, red C at the top of the page. When my then fourteen-year-old daughter saw it, she said, “Cs are unacceptable in this house! And please don’t start with the I can’t stuff! You have to figure it out.”
For the class of 2018, getting ready to make the jump from high school student to high school graduate, the world awaits. There is much criticism, negativity, and cynicism. It will be up to you to shut out those complainers, pessimists, prophets-of-doom, and party-poopers as you go about figuring it out.
You face enormous challenges – to do things that no one has yet figured out how to do, to invent things that have yet to be thought of, to give birth to ideas that will change the course of history, to make plans for your future, to survive the summer after graduation – and truthfully, it may seem impossible. But don’t entertain thoughts of I can’t, I won’t, and I quit. It will be difficult, but you will figure it out.
The nineteenth century poet, Edgar Guest expressed it beautifully:
Figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You’ve all that the greatest of men
Two arms, two hands, two legs,
And a brain to use if you would
With this equipment they all
So start for the top and say, “I
You are the handicap you must
You are the one who must choose
You must say where you want to
How much you will study the
truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but
Lets you decide what you want to
Courage must come from the soul
The man must furnish the will to
So figure it out for yourself, my
You were born with all that the
great have had,
With your equipment they all
Get hold of yourself, and say: “I
Yes, you will figure it out for yourself. You won’t do it alone. You won’t come through unscathed. You won’t always have success. But adopting the mantra, I can, I will, and I won’t give up, will assure that you will figure it out. Good luck to each and every one of you as you begin your new journey!
Charlene Paul and her husband Ken raised their family in Moapa Valley. She loves reading, writing, baking, crochet, and talking. She is the owner of Look on the WRITE Side, a freelance writing and proofreading company and can be contacted at email@example.com.