Next weekend my daughter will graduate from college. Thousands of other kids will be doing the same thing and I imagine that they all have one thing in common: they are scared to death. Scared of leaving the bubble known as college; scared of leaving friends and what for most are the best years of their lives. To date.
Now I don't want to sound like Mary Schmich in her Chicago Tribune 1999 college "sunscreen" address (Baz Lurmann performed it in song form, huge hit) so in my own words, I have a bit of advice. To the class of 2012:
Every year for as long as you can probably remember, you finished up school in the spring and no matter what you did over the summer, you knew you'd be back to school come August or September. Whether you liked it or not, you had a plan. There was no unknown.
During your college years summers were meant for working to save up money for the following school year; or interning while not earning anything. But you still had school to go back to. And you couldn't wait; some of you even spent your summers at school as you didn't want to ever leave.
Four years have flown by (maybe five) faster than you could have ever imagined. You have made friends; probably the best friends you will ever have. I am guessing right about now you are wondering what in the world you are going to do without them? There isn't going to be a "next fall" anymore and you are feeling like this is all pretty surreal.
I can almost guarantee when you get home or to wherever you may be going, it won't hit you for awhile. When it will will be in the fall when every fiber of your being feels like it's supposed to be back at school; you're supposed to be reuniting with your friends. That's going to be a difficult time. The good news is, you will get through it. And I bet there are many of you who are fearing what we all call "the real world" and wondering how you will survive.
Maybe you have a job, maybe you're going to be traveling. Whatever it is that you're planning to do, know that it is only the beginning of a life that has endless possibilities. Endless!! You are so very lucky that you have a higher education, that you have been given the tools to make a success of yourself.
Going into the work force will be quite an adjustment. But this is what you worked so hard for! All those nights cramming for tests, all nighters studying for finals. Those were all so you could have the chance to do what you're doing. You're setting out on an adventure; you have no idea where this will take you and that's so exciting! If you think you learned a lot in school, just wait until you've been on the job a few years. The ability to learn and drink it all in is exhilarating!
If you are graduating and still wondering what you want to do when you grow up, guess what? It's okay! The beauty of your young lives right now is that time is on your side. Just be careful not to let too many year slip by while you decide. There is always room for change at this stage of the game. It's when you are in your 50's and you still are trying to figure it out that it gets alot harder!
If you are moving back home to your parents, understand that while it's a huge adjustment for you, it may be for them as well. You have grown used to living on your own, doing as you please. But parents are parents so cut them some slack. They actually have to adjust to your return too. They aren't used to having someone come in at 3AM. Nor are you used to having to report to someone. Give them that courtesy. They may not be able to sleep until they know you're home. When you were at school, they slept easier. It's a thing that you'll understand some day when you have your own kids.
Life is such a gift. Now that you have set the stage for it, the way it will play out is all up to you. In 2010 Quincy Jones, the keynote speaker at Indiana University's graduation said the following: "It's better to be sorry you did than to wish you had". Think about that as you go through your life.
When you have an opportunity, take it. When you dream of doing something, do it. If it doesn't work out, don't wallow in regret, just move on. Don't grow older with a mountain of "woulda, coulda, shoulda's". You can't change the past, only the future.
Life is not a dress rehearsal; you don't get a do-over. Whatever path life takes you on, do your best to make it the right one. This was some sage advice I learned when I was in high school:
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you'd like to win, but don't think you can
It's almost a cinch you won't .
If you think you'll lose, you're lost,
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will;
It's all in the state of mind.
If you think you're outclassed, you are.
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
Walter D. Wintle
Now go out and get 'em. Seize every moment and opportunity you have. And do follow Mary's advice. Wear sunscreen.