Harvard Business School asks graduating MBA students each year what it is they plan to do with their one wild and precious life. I remember thinking there was a "right answer", one Harvard wanted to hear: to create a company, do something BIG, to show up in Forbes magazine's top 30 under 30 or, failing that, at least their top 40 under 40. I felt a weight of responsibility, but also the nagging feeling that I wasn't like my classmates in wanting a simpler life. I "just" wanted to do work that served others, to be a mom, to belong to a community, and to be fully present for as many moments, for as many days as I could.
A decade later I came across the Mary Oliver poem from which this quote was pulled and laughed out loud (see below). She writes how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, how to realize we all die, and too soon. So far from doing some BIG and featured in Forbes, so much closer to my deepest longings. Harvard Business School should perhaps share the full poem when asking students how they plan to spend their wild and precious lives. For me, I'm trying to pay attention and fall down into the grass. Tell me, what else should I have done?
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean— the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down— who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?