High school graduates, the future is yours to take

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graduation

Our nation’s high school seniors graduated, for the most part, without ceremony or speeches. They were denied the opportunity to count the minutes ticking by as some hometown hero alum gave a keynote speech about dreams and goals.

I am neither a hero, nor living in my hometown these days. I have, however, collected some advice for the newly minted “adults” as they move forward into the world after high school.

Travel

If you decide to make a life in your hometown, make it a choice and not a default. There is no shame in living down the street from the house you grew up in — or even in the house you grew up in. It is a shame, however, if you did so only because you were afraid to leave the neighborhood. Spread your wings and leave the nest.

Save money

Even just a small amount to build the habit. I don’t care if you transfer $5 from every paycheck or windfall into an account, or $500. Just do it. Save for that rainy day, because they do come.

In adulthood, the “umbrella” you need may be an expensive car repair so you can still get to your job, or a plane ticket to get to someone precious to you in a time of crisis. Be prepared.

Spending

Guard your credit score. I cannot stress this enough. That credit card or rent you default on at 21 can keep you from decent housing, car, cell phone, insurance, mortgage, job or more in the future. Don’t let the credit trap get you.

When you want to buy something ask yourself how many hours of your life you are working to obtain it. I have found that to be a sobering reminder of what things really “cost.”

Relationships

I am here to tell you an important truth: not everyone who is in your life now is meant to be there in the future. Know that it’s okay, and even necessary, to distance yourself from friendships or relationships that didn’t grow with you.

Who you chose as a partner and to parent with will set the tone for the rest of your life. Choose wisely. Don’t burn bridges. Just remove yourself and focus on those who fit your future.

Some high school relationships and romances do go the distance, and those are special and to be cherished. However, others find that time and adulthood put both figurative and literal distance between them. This isn’t a failure. Some people are in your life for a season and that is acceptable.

If you do have to move on, always do so with kindness and civility when possible, and with firm boundaries and class if not. Someday, you will find or make your tribe. At that time, it will make sense why it didn’t work out with anyone else.

Health

Learn about nutrition now. This may seem an odd request, but it isn’t about weight, but rather, health. It will set the tone for your health your entire life.

For most of us, the teenage metabolism that allows us to live on chips and soda and not gain an ounce will sputter to a halt sometime in the 20s. Most of us didn’t gain 50 pounds overnight. We gained a few pounds a year over a decade or more. Then come the aches and pains. Try to avoid being middle age with a bad back and hips due to poor choices when you were young and dumb.

Actions

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. See also: actions speak louder than words. We have become a wordy society. We hash and rehash and message and chat and snap and text our thoughts, feelings, intentions and armchair psychoanalysis.

Worse, people give endless “second chances” based on promises of future performance while ignoring every actual red flag in front of them. Stop doing that. Be true to your word. Live your standards. Expect others to do the same.

More advice

Never call someone you don’t know intimately before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. This is just my rule, but it’s a good one. Follow it.

Learn to give and share credit, take blame and sincerely apologize when you have made a mistake. These are valuable life skills in every walk of life. Practice saying, “that was my fault. It will not happen again.” Know that “I’m sorry, but …” is never an apology.

As an adult, you have the ability to make almost all your own decisions. This is heady stuff, and you should take advantage of that. It also means making good decisions. Think beyond what feels good in the moment. Just because you can, does not mean you should. Practice living with intention. The future is yours for taking. Make it a good one!

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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