It's Our Turn: 25 years gone in the blink of an eye
Ah, graduation time.
Seems like only yesterday I was walking up on the Brandon High School stage to get my diploma. But (sigh) it was actually a bit longer ago than that. My class is celebrating its 25-year reunion this summer. Where does the time go?
Once I decided to write about graduation for this column (at 9 p.m. the evening before it was due)I got sidetracked and spent the next hour paging through my senior yearbook, looking at the pictures, reading the sentimental notes written by my friends, and remembering all those wonderful, terrible, exciting and way over-dramatized high school memories.
Then I spent a half hour looking for a copy of my graduation speech, which I actually found! I clearly remember sitting at the family computer, a high tech Apple IIE, frantically making my final edits to that speech as my family was walking out the door to go to the graduation ceremony.
This column is evidence that I still push deadlines to the last possible minute. By the time I was done walking down memory lane I was too tired to even think about starting this column. So here I am, frantically writing on press morning.
The first line of my graduation speech was: "Tonight is kind of an awkward time for us. We don't know if we should be thinking about our past, concentrating on the present, or looking ahead to the future."
I remember those feelings. The excitement of going out into the big world, the fear of leaving the comfort zone of the school and community, the sadness of parting ways with friends who'd been by your side for many years, and all the many questions looming in your mind about what your future had in store for you.
It may have been 25 years since I graduated, but I can still remember a lot of those feelings quite clearly. So, graduates, let me give you exactly what you probably don't want any more of at this point - some advice.
First of all, don't shortchange yourself. It's sad when young people say things like, "What I'd like to do is _____, but it's too expensive/too many years of school/too far away/too hard/my grades aren't good enough, so I'm going to do _____ instead." Consider this: You're going to spend many, many, many hours at work. Do you want to spend that much of your life doing something you love, or something you settled for? Sure, it may not be easy, but I guarantee you, working hard to accomplish your dream at this point in life - even if it takes twice as long as another option - will pay off in the long run.
It's easier to talk yourself out of it with all the reasons of why you "can't," but challenge yourself to instead prove that you "can."
Second, don't mourn your friends. Looking back at my yearbook reminded me of all those close, incredible friendships I had. I really believed when I left high school that some of us would be "friends forever" as we wrote in our notes to each other. And in many ways we are, even though we haven't kept in touch. Looking back at that yearbook made me realize that they were an important part of my life, and even though we went different directions, that doesn't mean the friendships ended. Those people helped shape and mold me into who I am today.
Third, make smart choices. Too clearly I remember the feeling of invincibility that comes with youth. It's easy for young minds to believe that bad things won't happen to them. But they can and they do. Don't get so caught up in the moment that you act on impulse. Slow down and choose wisely.
Fourth, never stop learning. Learning doesn't end after high school or college. Always be taking in all that's around you and learning all that you can.
And finally, enjoy every moment. Trust me - every year will go by faster than the one before, so pay attention. Those teen years seemed to go on forever. I long for that feeling. Now I wonder where the past year, month, week went. I wonder when my kids grew up and when I started getting stiff after sitting too long, and how on earth 25 years have gone by since I graduated and had my entire life in front of me.
So that's my advice, graduates! Here's hoping you make all your dreams come true.
"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.