To the COE Class of 2017

So traditionally, I select a children’s book to share, but I have something a little different for you all. I have a poem I’d like to give you.  The poem is by Joyce Rupp with a few tweaks for our occasion.  The poem is called Old Maps No Longer Work. Here it is:

I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path.
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well-travelled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.

I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.

“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.

she looks at me with those eyes
and repeats, “toss it away.
it’s of no use where you’re going.”

“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction.”

“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”

so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security

“trust me” says my soul.

no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will I know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!

but then my soul whispers:
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims travelled by the stars.”

it is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.

Friends, for the last four years, you’ve been following a map someone else determined for you—Okay,—it was probably me and my curriculum maps.

But now is the time for you to be your own mapmaker. Let your life be a map in the making. Live your adventure and document the obstacles so that others might travel by the light that guides you until they find the courage to make their own way. Parker Palmer says, “Draw deep on your values and visions for a better world, and follow them even when doing so gets you crosswise with others.”

And know this. There are 86,400 seconds in a day. More than 126 million seconds have passed since you arrived on campus as first year students. See, there is plenty of time. But time is funny–it has a way of slipping by quicker than we’d like on occasion and dragging on indefinitely, especially when we are looking forward to spending our time differently. So, I encourage you to not waste a single second on doubting whether you are ready to make your own map and chart your course. You are.  And I, for one, am incredibly grateful for all the time I’ve had with you and for your willingness to trust the maps made for you while you were waiting for this moment to create your own.


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