700 days doesn’t define you

graduation mortarboard and diploma

Dear high school seniors,

What I am about to tell you flies in the face of nearly every bit of conventional wisdom, marketing and sentiment you have been exposed to this last year.

Far from being “the best days of your life,” if you are lucky, your high school days do not matter nearly as much as you have been told it does.

Oh, the education matters, yes. Yet somehow I suspect when people prattle on about the best days of their lives, they aren’t talking about third period calculus. They are usually talking about the athletics, clubs, friendships, peer groups, and society that surround high school. Those are fun and if you reveled in them, I’m thrilled. If you didn’t, that is perfectly OK too.

700 days

High school is approximately 700 days of your life. For most of you, that is four years.

If you are like most people, you will have longer relationships with people in neighborhoods and the workplace. I worked with the same people for nearly 17 years. Yet rarely am I asked to meet with them every five to 10 years at a reunion.

Please do not read this as bitterness. I didn’t hate high school. In fact, I loved it. Some very fun memories stem from high school. I’m blessed to be able to say, however, that none of my “best” ones do.

My best are children, marriage, career, and just the kind of friendships that come from being able to choose your friends based on more than who sits behind you in math class.

Real world

Seniors, in the coming weeks you will cast off the title of high school student. You will toss first that cap, then, perhaps, the bonds of time and place that held you here.

As you look around, you will see high school couples who swear to “love each other forever” and best friends who do the same. They may, but not always in the way imagined.

Some of you will go the distance. Good for you. Some of you will not. Good for you, too.

If you treat each other with civility and integrity, you will walk away with warm memories, a fondness and a renewed sense of what you are looking for when “your person” finally does come along.

As you make decisions, you will feel like every career choice, college class and so much more is the linchpin for the rest of your life.

We routinely tell teenagers not to get a tattoo because “how can you know you will like it in the future?” but you are supposed to have your career choices all mapped out by your junior year? Just minutes ago you weren’t trusted to leave school without a note from your mom.

It’s OK if you are still finding yourself.


You are going to hug people today and swear to be “Friends forever.” Then you are not going to see them for a decade — and only then if you run into them at the gas station.

This is not a failure. This is growing up.

There will be friends that are “forever.” They are rare jewels and should be nurtured as such. Be good to the ones who are good to you. Leave room to make new trusted, loyal friends even as you cherish the old.

All but one of my closest and most fun friends are people I had not yet met when I graduated from high school. It’s possible some of them were still in grade school themselves. At least one of them may not have been born yet.

They have all added a richness to my life that I would not have had I clung exclusively to only being friends with people I had known “forever.”

I had a teacher during those high school years who said once “this is not a dress rehearsal. This is your life!” He was correct. With hard work, family, friends and faith, you can accomplish anything.

Just remember that high school was important, but in the end, it accounts for only 700 days. Don’t let any one of those bad days make you think you have had a bad life.

700 Days of High School mean that who you were, who you knew and what you did or did not do does not in any way define you. Look around, breathe it in, make memories, live, learn, love but always remember to keep moving forward.

Welcome to the rest of your life. Make it a great one!

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