What is truly important?

A 2019 valedictorian speech has been making the rounds on social media. Kyle Martin shares how he worked hard and made sacrifices for a year to become valedictorian. Kyle contemplates if it was worth all the time, effort, and broken relationships to receive the fifteen seconds of applause and recognition.

One section of the speech impacted me the most. Kyle was grateful that he only wasted a year of his life. He can’t imagine coming to this realization at fifty years old or at the end of his life. And yet, how many of us do wait that long?

Kyle's speech

I am blessed to have had my awakening in my thirties. Before then, I had been in pursuit of success, acclaim, and perfection. I was good at what I did, but I was not a joy to work with. People’s feelings and needs were not on my checklist, so they did not get my focus. Since I am so driven and stubborn, it took a few wake-up calls before I finally learned true priorities. One wake-up call was expressed in my health. One was in my relationships.

My father-in-law had been struggling with cancer for quite some time, so it was not surprising when I received a call at work from my husband saying that his father had passed and asking if I could come to the family home. Of course, I would. Being a diligent worker, I first changed my out-of-office message, checked my emails, and looked for any snail mail that had to be attended to. As I was walking out of the office, my husband frantically called, “Are you almost here?” I paused, “I am just leaving.” When I arrived at the house, I realized that they kept my father-in-law’s body there, in the front room, for me to say goodbye.

I was so caught up with work and other priorities, I was clueless that they would do that for me. I was unaware that my husband needed me more than a meaningless project at work. I failed to put my relationships ahead work. Twenty years later I still hold regret for not being there for my husband. I have no idea what work project that day at a job I have long since left seemed so much more important than the people I care about.

For me, work and deadlines often get top billing above relationships. These days it seems people’s ideologies are more important than friends and family. It really does not matter what we choose as more important, what we need to learn is the only thing that is important is connection.

As Kyle says, “Nothing is more important than your healthy relationships. . . Relationships are where we get to influence, impact, and change people’s lives. Your life can not be meaningful without them. . . It is not too late to mend fractured relationships.”

Take the time to consider what is truly important to you. What is taking all your focus? Use the 5×5 rule to help you put seemingly urgent or critical issues in perspective. Think back over your life. What is most memorable? Awards you have won? Items you purchased? A political candidate from twenty years ago? Or is your BFF since high school, your children, your spouse the most important things in your life?

Make amends, now. Take ownership for the actions or in-actions which missed the mark. Begin living every day focusing on true priorities, your relationships, so that you do not have future regrets. We can not change our past, but we can make a better future.

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