Right between high school proms and summer break, there is an important rite of passage for our community’s young adults to mark their transition into adulthood. High School graduation is often one of the most exciting times in a twelfth grader’s life. Not everyone fits the mold, though, of when life moves on.
Some high school students graduate early, turning 18 as a junior as they’re anxious to move on it life. Others need another summer’s coursework to complete all the requirements to graduate. Truly, each child’s transition into adulthood is as unique as their own fingerprints. We all must find our way and path to get on with life.
I remember being 18, feeling caught in limbo between being a kid and being seen as a new adult. Once you reach voting age, life is different. Your choice of career impacts lives of people you never imagined you could help. Your voice, your career—they both make a difference in the future of others’ lives and who will become your future family.
Expectations for the future are high—no adult plans for a child not to succeed. They want children to do better than they did, not make the same mistakes. Along with the freedoms of graduation, many young adults enter the military, enter the workforce, or enter college. All are great choices. The most important memories to make, particularly during graduation, are to be surrounded by generations of your family who, one day, won’t always be able to join you in life celebrations.
Teenagers, please listen to your seniors reflecting on how they remember you at age 5, age 8, age 13, because they saw you through different eyes than you see yourself. Capture those conversations and reflections on audio or video. If you take the time to preserve those memories today, you will be so glad you did, thirty years from now.
For the past two weeks, Chelsea and I have received several wonderful high school graduation announcements in our daily mail from friends across the Brazos Valley. It is a wonderful time to share with friends and extended family at the occasion of that most important life transition.
The graduation ceremony has actually caught on among the youngest of our area’s students.
There’s preschool graduation (into kindergarten), and kindergarten graduation (into first grade) and eighth grad graduation (into high school). That made me think about the fact that, most of our lives, we are being celebrated for moving “from one stage to another.” And, for every person who has transitioned up to senior year of high school, they’ve known what was coming next.
But by the time we reach high school graduation, the natural “next place” is not so cut-and-dried, is it? Some graduates are anxious to begin a career and perhaps take on a more responsible full-time position with a place where they’ve been working since high school. Maybe they hope to one day own the business where they work, and college won’t get them closer to that goal in four years compared to life experience in that company.
Perhaps there is no money for college or university and a young person wants to enter military service to assure they mature, are ready for classes after serving our country, and they have an educational subsidy when they complete their service.
Often, graduates who have not yet chosen what they want to do in life find that military service provides excellent skill training, discipline and encourages a commitment to seeing tasks through to completion. After four years of doing jobs that require much discipline, students who enter college later in life tend to do exceedingly well.
Then, again, college is not for everyone. Businessman Richard Branson dropped out of high school when he was 15 and he’s done exceedingly well. Despite Aretha Franklin’s leaving high school at age 15, she has received 18 Grammys and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and the Berklee College of Music.
But for Bryan-College Station residents, we have three colleges within driving distance that make it possible for local high school graduates to pursue advanced studies: Texas A&M University, Blinn College, and Sam Houston State University. But it’s not a guarantee that a college diploma prepares you for your next career. It is, however, a place that guarantees that you feel like you “belong.”
That is very important in a young person’s life, knowing they belong, whether to a high school class of 2018, or a college class of 2022, or perhaps to a house of worship, in answer to the question, “Where do you go?” That means essentially “Where do you belong?” No matter where you go, you belong, at least to your family and extended family of friends that you build in life.
Those of you who share experiences of good and bad times without fail. The contemporary term is “ride or die” friends, who always have your back, and who care if you are present or absent, who look for you when something goes wrong in life, to make sure you’re not alone in your grief. Look around you and take serious stock of who the people are in your life whom you would miss for sure if they weren’t there.
Then, above all else, spend time with them, take photos or phone selfies, shoot videos and get their face and voice on film or phone, because in 20 years it will mean more to you than anything else you might have around you.
Dale Carnegie once said, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” Congratulations to all of our area high school graduates this May and this coming August. The world is yours for the taking. Enjoy your path to your future, and remember to stop and reflect along the way from time to time. It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters most. Always be moving forward as best you can. Go “to” rather than “from.”