I’ll never forget the first time I was in a real race, on a track with a starting line and real ribbons and everything. It was my elementary school’s field day, near the end of the academic term. There was even a cap gun used as a starting pistol (hard to imagine in our gun-paranoid modern era), and when it was fired, I was off. In only a few steps I was well ahead of the pack and gaining speed.
Looking back at how far back everyone else was, I was amazed at how well I was doing. Surely fame and glory and innumerate riches were mine for the taking (or at least one of those coveted blue ribbons). It was then that I realized this was a 400-meter race — an entire lap around the track — and I was already getting quite tired. Uh oh. Gradually the pack caught up with, and then passed me. Instead of a blue ribbon, I got a purple one that says “participant.” I still have it, because I learned an important lesson that day: life is a marathon, not a sprint.
I’ve never run a marathon, but one thing I know for sure is that it isn’t wise to break yourself right at the start. If you don’t pace yourself, you’re going to have a bad time. It’s good advice whether you’re pushing 40, or moving a tassel across your mortarboard. Relax, the race is long. Writing to you as someone who’s well into the race, I’d offer a few words to you, the Class of 2014.