An Open Letter To High School Graduates
Congratulations to you all. By now, you have walked across the stage, before your classmates, teachers, administrators and family, shook hands with a figure of authority and received your high school diploma.
This much is certain – a major milestone in your life has been achieved and you should be proud of the accomplishment and enjoy some time celebrating safely and hopefully enjoying some relaxation along the way.
However, I am not going to gush over you like so many others this week. You deserve to pat yourself on the back and have a sense of pride in what you were able to do over the last four years. There’s nothing that could be said to diminish your achievement.
However, it’s worth remembering you have merely done what has been expected of you at your age.
Graduating high school essentially serves as the ending to one chapter in the book that is your life and the beginning of another. It’s a building block. You have been expected to graduate high school since your parents enrolled you in elementary school years ago. All things led to this, what happens next is up to you. For most, it means college of some sort. With that comes pressure to succeed and make your parents proud and justify the thousands of dollars they or the government are investing in you. It’s this next chapter that will likely determine who you are as a person.
You have received a lot of advice over the last few weeks, particularly at your commencements. Undoubtedly, you have heard several speeches and numerous words of counsel. Clearly, you listened to some of what was said and maybe even took a few pieces of encouragement to heart. Along those lines, here are a few more words of advice and some general thoughts from someone who was in your shoes 16 years ago.
— Be flexible: What gives young people an edge in this world is their adaptability. You are way too young to possess too many bad habits. Even those of you who have a few behavior quirks that need to be kicked, it should not be too difficult so long as you are open to change and maybe some criticism. Many young people complain they are not taken seriously. Unfortunately, that’s often the case, largely because you think you know everything. You can buck this trend by proving yourself to be adept at juggling a variety of things at one time and being open to learning new things.
— Don’t be arrogant: You do not know enough about the world to be conceited. You will need to make many mistakes and misjudgments before you are successful. Being supercilious will only lead you astray and waste time.
— Do be excited: One of those most charming traits I find in teenagers is when they are obviously excited about something. It’s an exhilarating time for you, and it’s okay to show your true emotions. Excitement shows honesty, which is never a bad trait.
— Don’t feel entitled: More than likely, life is not going to work out exactly the way you hope. There will be curve balls that come your way, both professionally and personally. Exactly how you deal with them will say a lot about your character. You will need to possess a will to succeed and the devotion to prosper through difficult times, which are inevitable. Failure is a certainty at some point in your life. Coping with it and turning it into a positive will show your strength.
In summation, what happens next is your call. This is the beginning of what should be the best years of life. A lot of memories will be made and you will meet a lot of wonderful, inspiring people in the years ahead. You will never forget the last chapter of your life. High school is a special time. Take what you have learned and apply it near or far, whether it’s college, the service, a job, a volunteer career or a family that’s your next calling.