Tonight I wrote a letter to my high school’s graduating class. As a ten year link in the chain, my class donated to the current class. I hoped to inspire the soon-to-be graduates with a brief message. I simply wrote:
“…it is my honor to provide the high school and the Class of 2018 with this donation. My classmates and I hope you utilize the donation to contribute back to the high school and the local community as you deem fit.
Soon your class will walk across the stage for graduation. You will say goodbye to the high school, but you will hold onto the memories you have made within the school forever. I will always remember participating in Spirit Week and spending hours making murals for the walls, practicing in the arduous summer heat for field hockey’s pre-season, volunteering for the Apple Festival, and cramming for many tests. Regardless if you had or did not have similar experiences to mine, you have grown mentally, morally, and physically into your own unique self during your time at the high school. Take time to reflect on this growth before you cross the stage for graduation. Consider what you saw and what you were thinking the first day of school freshman year as compared to who you are today. It is incredible how our personal experiences with peers, teachers, coaches, and administrators during high school have such a big impact on our personal development. We only recognize these changes, however, when we take the time to identify these shifts and retrospectively appreciate the challenges and successes we experience.
It is my hope that you will continue to grow after graduating from the high school. Your graduation from high school is just the beginning to your exceptional life path. Always remember to challenge yourself and never stop learning once you have left high school. Also take time to reflect on the past and be thankful for where you came from. Even if your high school friends no longer text you every day or if you forget some algebra lessons that could have helped you with a college course, you will always have today’s memories to recall and consider. Your graduation is just the beginning. Enjoy the present and be hopeful for the future.”
Although everything I said was honest and true, I wanted to express so much more. I wanted to be blunt and not soft, I wanted to be truthful…even if it seemed overzealous. If I could be completely honest I would have added the following:
- Let go of your misconceptions of the world. Our hometown is a cloistered, privileged community. Although it was a joke, our motto of “we aren’t snobs, we are just better than you” is a horrible phrase. Humble yourself…get out of yourself. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable. If that means going against your parents will and not going to college and instead pursuing your passion in a big city…DO IT! If that means joining the military because you have been called to serve…DO IT! If that means going to a community college and working three jobs because you want to save money but get an education at the same time…DO IT! Continue to grow because no one in the real world is going to help you out. You’re going to have to make it on your own.
- Let go of petty friends. You may feel crushed, you may feel like you have wasted time on someone’s attention…but negative acquaintances just aren’t worth it. True friends are the kinds of people you don’t have to talk to every single day. Instead, they’re the kind of person you can call out of the blue and hold a conversation or say nothing at all but know he or she is there for you. Do not waste your time on people who live in the past because life is ever-changing, ever-shifting, every-expanding. Stop living to appease someone…and start living to make yourself happy!
- Make yourself a 5-year and 10-year plan. Start by envisioning where you want to be in ten years. Is it with a family? Is it living abroad? Is it pursuing a hobby? Now break that into more tangible bits – how could you help yourself reach this end state in five years? Are there certain classes you should take? What kind of people could you surround yourself with to encourage you to obtain your goal? Will it require monetary savings so maybe you need to get a second job? Now draw this end state into a picture. Yes actually take out some sort of writing tool and draw. Hell it doesn’t have to be good but make it reflect the various aspects of your dream. Now hang that on the door of your closet – or somewhere else you have to see every day – and make it an intention to work towards your five and ten year goal EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s not going to be handed to you…you will have ups and downs…but if you want it you’ve got to work for it.