City Hall: Life's a beach, kids

·5 min read

Jun. 13—GRADUATION WEEKEND. After years of essays, pop quizzes, finals and chemistry labs, high school seniors in Manchester and communities across New Hampshire (including my offspring) receive diplomas and head off toward whatever comes next.

The years and miles, tears and smiles across the three decades since my high school graduation have taught me a few lessons.

You never know where the best advice will come from. For me it's music, with my favorite lyrics coming from a man best known for his tribute to a mythical island paradise.

Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" has been merchandised and marketed into a not-so-small fortune, but dive a little deeper into the song catalog and you'll discover the tropical troubadour has a few words of wisdom up his Hawaiian shirt sleeve.

There's more here than just the salty residue 'round the edge of the glass. As this pirate looks at 50, here are a few I've taken to heart over the years:

"Wrinkles only go where the smiles have been."

If you're lucky enough to grow old, don't fear those lines on your forehead. You've earned those stripes, and every one of them is a chapter of your story.

"Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see. Moderation seems to be the key."

Take time to enjoy the little things along the way.

"Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder, so I can't look back for too long.

"There's just too much to see waiting in front of me, and I know that I just can't go wrong."

Don't waste time on regret; the past is just that.

"Need is a relative thing these days, It borders on desire.

"The high tech world is full of bright shiny things, we think that we really require."

If the pandemic has taught me anything, it's to cherish the simple things in life and those closest to me. Whatever the latest and greatest toy is, it won't top time spent with those nearest and dearest.

"These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes; Nothing remains quite the same.

"Through all of the islands and all of the highlands, if we couldn't laugh we would all go insane."

Don't ever lose your sense of humor, no matter where your path takes you. Every situation in life gets better when you add a smile to the mix.

"I don't want to live on that kind of island, No, I don't want to swim in a roped-off sea.

"Too much for me, too much for me, I've got to be where the wind and the water are free."

Live outside the rules once in a while — too much structure is never a good thing. As you wade into the ocean of your lives, don't be afraid to swim out past the bobbers every now and then.

"Alone on a midnight passage, I can count the falling stars.

"While the Southern Cross and the satellites, they remind me of where we are.

"Spinning around in circles, living it day to day,

"And still just twenty four hours, maybe sixty good years, it's really not that long a stay."

Cherish every moment you have on this earth, because you never know how long it's going to last.

"Jimmy dreams, he's a child to the end,

"What a joy, when you are your best friend,

"The world's such a toy, if you'll just stay a boy, you can spin it again and again."

Try to keep a little bit of the child in you as you get older — don't ever stop learning, or having fun doing it.

"There's that one particular harbor, sheltered from the wind,

"Where the children play on the shore each day, and all are safe within.

"A most mysterious calling harbor, so far but yet so near,

"Where I see the day when my hair's full gray, and I finally disappear."

Once you find someone, or something, that makes you feel safe, happy and content, hold onto it as long as you can. People and places like that don't come along too often.

"We've gotta roll with the punches, learn to play all of our hunches,

"Make the best of whatever comes your way.

"Forget that blind ambition, and learn to trust your intuition,

"Plowin' straight ahead come what may."

This song is about a man who ended up in his own paradise, but it wasn't his initial destination. He found happiness making the best of whatever life threw at him.

"All the stories we could tell,

"If it all blows up and goes to hell,

"I wish that we could sit upon the bed in some hotel,

"And listen to the stories we could tell."

When you are sitting on your rocker decades from now, the time will go by much more quickly if you have volumes of tales to relive. So get out there and write some exciting chapters.

That's enough preaching. Enjoy graduation day and all the days to come, no matter where they take you.

To paraphrase the man one more time: Some of it will be magic, some of it tragic, but I hope you have a good life all the way.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at

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