I am the least likely person to give graduation advice. I was an average, somewhat lazy, student. I excelled at anything involving words. No surprise. I stopped understanding math when the alphabet decided to get involved.
Still, because one of my favorite people in the history of the world is about to graduate, I am duty bound to have sage words of wisdom to pass on to her and her many classmates who I also adore.
You can’t know people from kindergarten on up, open their mini-milks at lunch and tie their shoes before playground and not grow attached. I watched them go from gangly middle schoolers with gap teeth to fully formed adults with gracious manners and winning smiles.
I sat through Senior Awards the other night with an incredulous feeling that this had all been some incredible mistake. I’m certain these kids are all 4 to 6 years old. Someone needs to check the math. Not me, obviously.
First, my shiny young people, let me be the first to assure you that high school was probably not “the best years of your life.” I hope and pray for you that they were great years, of course, but the “best” years? Gosh, I hope not. You have so much left to do and see and experience.
So whether it was the most fun you’ve had to date, or an experience you would rather forget, let me assure you that four years of high school is nothing. It’s a blip on the radar. The time is now to take what you loved and leave the rest behind.
Boywonder had a pretty good run as a high school student if I do say so myself. He was team captain, Eagle Scout, National Honor Society, attended over 20 formal dances (yes, really) and surrounded himself with wonderful friends. By any All American High School enjoyment standards, he had a pretty good run.
Two days after he graduated, he laid a stack of plaques and awards and a well-worn varsity letterman’s jacket on my bed with a cheery “I don’t need these right now.”
He was right
About five minutes after graduation, no one cares about your identity in high school. It’s time to start your new you now.
For her part, we are super proud of GirlWonder who is graduating. Permit me to brag that she is class salutatorian, a member of the National Honor Society, clocked more than 240 hours of volunteer service in a variety of organizations, and received a handful of scholarships. All this makes her father and I beam with pride.
We also breathe a sigh of relief since she was mildly lead poisoned as an infant. I think I can finally quit feeling like we broke her before her first birthday.
Above all those awards, however, we are most proud that she is kind. They may not give an honors award or cord for that, but sustaining friendships that date to preschool (and before) says a lot about a person’s character.
As you move forward in life, some friends will fall away and that’s OK. There will be some, however, who go the distance. Don’t lose your distance people. They are your touchstone to your past, a helping hand into the future, and most of all they are your tribe.
Granted, I also love that she has the kind of sass and leadership that sent her marching down a dark hallway after hours to track down someone to right the wrong that left she and one of her best friends slighted on community service hours. She ended up finding the superintendent of the school district in his office and had no problem making her case.
From this, I offer my main advice to high school graduates: If you don’t go after what you want, you will never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you didn’t step forward, you will always be stuck in the same place.
Now is the time to be bold and be brave and, for the love of all that is good and holy, have a plan.
Don’t just float along waiting for life to happen to you out of habit or happenstance. When people ask, what do you do? Answer: whatever it takes.
This is not practice
This is not a dress rehearsal. This is your life.
Decide what you want your life to look like, all of it. Now go out and make that happen.
Finally, remember that none of us have it all figured out. Ever. It’s OK to ask for advice or assistance. We love you and we are your tribe.
Frankly, I love asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because I am still looking for ideas.