No more high school.
No more bells, study halls or varsity volleyball. No more sock hops, pep rallies or lunchroom drama.
Welcome to the real world.
Well, you’ll have a four-year sojourn in college, which is only pseudo real world, but there’s no more coddling.
Not that we ever coddled you. We purposely didn’t because we wanted to raise a girl — a woman — who was fiercely independent, brimming with self-esteem, and able to tackle life’s curves.
When you were 9 and one of only two girls to still be playing baseball while the others migrated to softball, you got smacked in the ribs by a hard-pitched ball.
It hurt, and you were scared to stand at the plate for the next at-bat. And the next.
Game after game, you ducked from pitches. Night after night, Dad and I worked with you in the backyard, trying to build your confidence.
You cried. Dad yelled. I ached.
But you kept at it. Even when the bigger boys rolled their eyes as you stepped into the batter’s box.
Then you got a hit. I’ve got a batting average, Mom!, you cried. No more zeros.
The Japanese say “fall down seven times, get up eight.”
You learned a lesson that summer. Remember it.
Because you will fall down again. And again.
You’ll discover that life’s not fair, nobody owes you anything, and the world doesn’t revolve around you.
But you’ll also discover there are wonderful, caring people everywhere you go. Passionate and compassionate people. Average, everyday people who will amaze you with their strength, or their courage, or their drive. Surround yourself with those people, for they will be there to help you get back up. Try to become one of those people.
I hope you reach your goal of becoming a teacher because I think it’s the noblest profession in the world. It won’t be easy. You’ll face students and parents and other teachers and administrators who will push you down. Get up. Students and parents and other teachers and administrators need you.
Like every other high school graduate this year, you possess unique talents that only you can use to touch the world. Several years ago, author and columnist Anna Quindlen told Villanova graduates “you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life.” That means you and you alone choose your reactions to disappointments, to victories, to sorrow and to joy.
Quindlen also said, “All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.”
Choose to do good.
Gary Gray, who retired from the Columbiana-Mahoning USDA office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, once told me, “Ever since our sons were born, we raised them to leave us.” It’s tough advice for parents, but right on target.
Next September, when you leave us, I know you won’t look back.
But I hope you will remember this last advice: Do not give up. Get up one more time.
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