We spent to weekend celebrating my younger brother’s graduation in my home town of St Charles (just out side St Louis). It was great being back with friends and family, but there was something about the ceremony that really took me back. It was only 7 short years ago that I was sitting there in the those chairs dreaming of the adventures the next chapter of my life would hold. You could see the hope and excitement in their eyes, they had yet to be jaded by the ‘real world’ and life was still full of possibilities.
Listening to the the students, principal, and district administration speakers, it made me think of what I would say if I could go back and speak to my class knowing what I know now. Here’s a little draft of what I might say:
The first day of high school seems like it was just yesterday and some how it also seems like a life time ago. But really it was just four years. As we sit here now, the graduating class of 2009, we are ready. Ready for that next chapter in our lives. Ready for the freedom to become the people we will be. Ready for the future and whatever it may hold. But before we get to the future, I want us to think about the past.
The past four years to be exact, because in so many ways these were the best four years we ever had. We got to wake up every morning, maybe a little too early if you ask me, but we got to wake up and go to this place where we’d see all our best friends. We learned about the subjects we’d grow to love and about some that we’d prefer not to take again if we can manage it. We faced first loves and first heartbreaks. We joined clubs and tried new sports and we grew from confused teens trying to find their locker on the first day to seniors walking the halls with pride that last day because this is our school.
In the fall, we’ll go our separate ways. I have friends heading to schools north, south, east, west and even some going over seas with the armed forces. For me, it will be a three hour drive to see the closest friend and for some much longer. When I leave in August, I won’t see most of my friends again until Thanksgiving. I’ll be back to wandering the new campus confused and looking for friends again. The easy part is over. But though the easy part is over, the best part is what is next to come.
So as we prepare to embark on this new adventure, I just have some advice to make the best of what is to come:
1. Face to face communication is so important. Don’t hide behind your phone. As much as I want to keep up with all of you on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or whatever new social media platforms come along, I know that spending too much time on my phone will hold me back from the new friends I need to meet and the new adventures I’ll experience. So don’t be mad if I take awhile to respond and I won’t be upset if you do the same.
2. No one is the highlights you see online. As the world embraces technology at a rapid pace, so will the urge to have the ‘perfect’ online persona. People tend to only post the best of the best so you should never compare your bad days or even your regular days to the pictures with perfect light and heavy editing you’ll see online. It’s okay to have bad days. No one is perfect.
3. Travel as much as you can. The world is a large place with so many opportunities. As the saying goes, ‘Travel is the only thing you buy that will make you richer.’ Travel as much and as often as possible. Big trips to new countries and cultures and smaller road trips to anywhere in driving range. Travel alone and travel in groups. Study abroad and take regular trips home. See as many places as you can before the real world with full time jobs and adult responsibilities kick in and limit your time off.
4. Your friends will change and so will you. It’s okay. As they change and you change, you may grow apart and that’s okay, too. I have always believed that people come into your life for a reason. Whether you have a lesson to teach them or for them to teach you, once they have fulfilled their need, sometimes it’s necessary to move on. If a year or two or ten from now, we are no longer in touch… remember that you have been a treasured friend and will always have a place in my heart. These memories we’ve made together are important and I will carry them with me forever.
Normally, these speeches end with ‘We did it!’ but instead I will end with this, ‘High School may be over, but our lives have just begun.’