One of the best pieces of advice about life came from a benign comment from a golf pro who was helping me prepare for a tournament in college. I was feeling pretty anxious about playing this particular course. I had never seen it before and the weather was looking nasty. It can be pretty embarrassing to play a bad round of golf, It’s doubly embarrassing when your score is posted up on a huge board next to all the other scores.
As we were talking about the course and my practice round, Matt, the golf pro, simply said, “When you get to the green on each hole, look back down the fairway and take note of how wide the course is when you look at it backwards.”
Here I am, 15 years later, using that quote to talk about life. Because, in fact, looking backwards and reflecting often does leave us realizing that things were not as difficult as we thought. The narrow, difficult parts of our life, the parts we’re anxious about, are often not as bad when we look backwards
For the sake of this metaphor, imagine each year at Shore was a hole of golf. Just like in golf, some holes are more difficult than others. Some have more traps and hazards. Some are longer than others. Some feel like they will never end and some fly by. Some are your favorites and some you didn’t like so much. Some might have had some lucky breaks and some you might have had some tough breaks.
I am willing to bet that most of your years (at Shore or anywhere else) had a collection of all those variables inside of them. That’s how life goes. There’s good. There’s bad. There’s joy. There’s sadness. There’s success. There’s failure. And everything in between.
I am also willing to bet that as you look back on your tough times at Shore you’ll view them more fondly than maybe you did while you were actually living them. Just like Matt the Golf Pro said, “It looks a lot wider when you look at it backwards.”
That’s the beauty of looking back at each golf hole, or each moment in life. While some experiences may seem rife with penalties and hazards and bad breaks, when you look back from the end of the hole, you realize you made it to the end and that if wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. There’s more space for mistakes than you realize. You might see a simpler path down the hole in the future. You can take what you learned and try it on the next hole.
To extend this metaphor, golf is a social game. It’s a game you typically play with others. Rarely do you play alone (although a quiet, solo round of golf is delightful). Not matter if you are alone or playing with others, you do have an individual responsibility. You have your own golf ball to play. Sure, your playing partners can give you tips and advice. They might help you look for your ball if you hit it into the woods. But ultimately, that golf ball is yours to get from the tee to the green. You might find that some people had a bigger impact during certain years of your life. Friendships change. People come and go from our lives. Some people have been with you during this whole journey.
Whether tomorrow’s graduation is your last experience before becoming a graduate or you’re returning to Shore next year, we are all finishing out another hole in this round of golf that is life. Make sure you take a look back and see how wide those fairways really are.
I hope you take some time this week to thank the people that have been your partners during this past year at Shore. Whether that’s a teacher or a peer or someone in your House who is older or younger.