Wise words of advice from an alum 35 years after his graduation

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By Mason Gomberg

A letter to the graduating class of 2013:

I will be joining you at your graduation this June. My graduation from Union College occurred in 1978. The college and the environment have changed since that time. I was there when Union started its hockey program;  Rathskeller was the place to be; they served beer, wine and mixed drinks at the student center; and each science course had two labs per week.

I think as students we were a bit poorer, since going out for a meal at a restaurant was a rare treat and I don’t remember anyone getting a mani/pedi.

Recently, I have even seen some of my old professors: Professors Berk, Tobeissen and Weiner, whom I personally thanked for making a lifelong lesson or memory.

For over 25 years, I have been fortunate to work with young men and women. As June approaches and you have your post-college life starting, I am reminded about my own graduation.

The commencement speaker was Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a researcher on death and dying. Prior to her speech, I thought about how morbid a topic it would be, and on such a happy day for us. To my amazement, her speech was not only uplifting, but memorable and something I have tried to take with me throughout life.

I wish to share a few of her thoughts she gave to my graduating class. She talked about her work with dying patients.

“They do not tell me of many mountain peaks, but what they tell me is something that we too often forget, and that it’s not the happy, sunny days that make human beings out of you or that give you strength, faith, trust or love. It is the moments of hardships in life that make you a man or a woman.

“They tell you that they made a good living but somewhere along the line they forgot to live. To live means to be able to give your children not just money, but give them memories. Memories that you will never forget.

“Memories of a fishing trip, an idea and a feeling that your parents knew you and you knew them. You will also have to learn one more thing, and that is besides hard work, sharing, giving and receiving, that you have to take time out to have a little fun.

“An 85-year-old patient looked back at her life and said, ‘If I had to live my life over, I would make more mistakes next time. I would ramble around and be sillier than I’ve been this trip.

“‘I would take fewer things so seriously and take more chances. I would take more trips and climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and fewer prunes.

“‘I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I would have fewer imaginary ones. I would go to more dances and I would pick more daisies.’

“So in leaving you today, I wish you not a happy, smooth ride, but a full life of terrific windstorms but also a lot of daisies.”

As you leave graduation for graduate schools, full or part-time jobs or even one last summer fling, start to use your wonderful minds and stand up by yourselves.

Use your parents for help, but start taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions. You’ll make some mistakes, but learn from them.

As you plan for your future, don’t get caught up with the latest craze or gadget. If you chase the status symbols of your time, you will lose site of the real meaning of living.

Give your loved ones not only memories, but the most expensive present you have, which is your time. And when you have your own children, make sure you don’t substitute monetary items and gifts for your love and great memories.

As a pediatrician, I tell my patients’ parents that a toy from the store is no substitute for an hour at the park. Good luck on your future paths. You will find that Union prepared you well.

Sincerely,

Mason Gomberg ‘78 

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