I was sleeping peacefully a few nights ago when I was awakened by a noise that sounded like an explosion. I sprang from the bed and over to my closet to investigate the problem and discovered that two of the shelving racks in my closet had collapsed. Clothes were all over the floor, powdered with remains of broken dry wall, and items from shelves were scattered everywhere. I straightened up a bit and then contacted the maintenance team at the apartment complex to discover what could be done to repair my damaged closet.
The leasing office suggested that I had overtaxed the shelves – that they could not handle the load of clothing and possessions that I was asking them to support. But, a couple of days later, I happened to run into the maintenance man who explained to me that the problem was not the weight that was on the shelves, but rather that the shelving was anchored into the drywall instead of into the studs. The drywall has a limited capacity, but the studs are able to carry more weight. The repair would not change anything about the system in the closet except that it would be connected to beams that are able to carry the load better.
2016 was a very tough year. Every time you turned on the news, we had lost another icon: from Prince to Princess Leia. The Presidential election was uglier than anything that we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes. We’ve had to walk the streets wearing shirts that proclaim that Black Lives Matter because it’s no longer intrinsically clear that everyone from police officers to our fellow citizens believe that simple fact. A unprecedented malaise has fallen over the face of our nation.
My Scholars – in the midst of the despair that has gripped our country, I want to affirm that nothing is wrong with your dreams. They are worthy of you holding them high and pressing towards them with reckless abandon. You can get better grades this year. You can become the leader that you aspire to be. You can improve on the basketball team and you can win regionals for debate. You’ll travel the world, bring up your SAT scores, start your own business, and grow into the rich destiny of greatness that we saw in you from the first time we met.
But if your dreams have fallen – if the high hopes that you have built for yourself have landed in the floor – please know that they didn’t fall because they have too much gravitas. If the broken pieces are laying at your feet, maybe it’s because you didn’t have them anchored to anything of substance. There are people in life that are like drywall – they appear sturdy, but they don’t hold under pressure. Don’t accept the voices of those who aren’t willing to embrace your high aspirations or, even worse, try to discourage them.
But please don’t change one thing about those dreams – just anchor them better. Develop new bonds with your parents – they are the financiers that have gotten you to this point in most cases. Make friends with people who are ready to run for the mountaintop at your side. Appreciate teachers who are patient and dedicated enough to go the extra mile to make you love learning. And whenever you feel like you can’t handle the load for one more day and you notice an extra pair of arms in the frame, just know that it’s my greatest honor to help you hold your world steady. 2017 isn’t ready for the amazing things that we will be able to accomplish together.