You’ve been asked to speak at your high school alma mater — about the path of life. (Whoa.) Draft the speech.
As I stand here and I look at all your excited and happy faces, I can’t help but recall sitting in the same spot, 23 years earlier, with the same excitement and happiness. Like today, someone stood before me very much like I stand before you right now. They spoke of great things ahead, and the promise of a bright future. While the words were encouraging and inspirational, they failed to speak of the actual reality that lied ahead.
Today, I want to share with you what I wish had been said to me 23 years ago.
LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS
I know…. you are 18 and ready to take on the world. Society tells you are an adult and ready to be out on your own. But don’t be so quick to scoot from the nest.
I have been where you are and I know the annoyance that parents can sometimes bring. They want to talk about EVERYTHING. They are constantly on you about decisions you make, the friends you keep, your appearance. I have been there. But don’t be quick to turn a deaf ear to mom and dad. While from a different generation, they have still been where you are right now. The advice, and commentary they give, while annoying at times, comes from experience. Seize it! There is no greater resource then someone who loves you.
Trust me… you don’t stop needing your parents because you are now an adult. I am 41 years old, and I STILL lean on my mom for guidance. She’s been through it. She’s the expert.
No One Cares If You Pass or Fail
I will never forget the first time I cut a class my freshmen year of college. It was awesome. The professor, didn’t ask questions about why I missed, didn’t call my mom to tell her I ditched, and never acknowledged I had missed at all. SWEET! College was awesome.
My celebration was short lived when a week later I had to take a quiz in the same class I had skipped. I failed. Miserably. You see, while the professor never questioned why I wasn’t in class, he also didn’t go over any of the items I missed in class, or enlighten me that a quiz may be in the future.
Your days now are filled with parents and teachers helping you make wise choices. If you miss a day, your teacher is going to have all the work you need to make up ready for you. Your parents are there to help you with schedules and time lines. You are continually hounded about quizzes, tests, assignment due dates, etc…. By the time you enter college and even the work force, those days are gone. You are an adult now and are expected to be responsible and keep up with a schedule. If you skip a class or assignment it is up to you to find out what you have missed and catch up on it on your own. No one is going to hold your hand. If you fail, it is on you. The university will just get your money again next semester when you have to take the class over. Harsh but true. Trust me.
You Are Going to be Overwhelmed
What happens next is wonderful. It is going to be some of the best years of your lives. You are going to meet the friends that are going to mean the most to you. You are going to experience life like you have never experienced it before. You are going to have more freedom and more opportunities. Things are about to get exciting.
However, you are also going to have more responsibilities. You will make mistakes that can’t be fixed with a hug from a parent. You will have to make decisions that will affect your whole life. There are going to be days when you lock yourself in your room, and wonder, “WHAT THE CRAP DO I DO?” It’s going to happen. It needs to happen. It is at these times, when you are pushed beyond your limits, that you are going to learn who you truly are. Don’t dwell on these times. Have your cry, eat your whole box of Little Debbies, wipe your tears, and get back up. It is going to be ok. You will discover that you ARE an adult, you are stronger then you think, and this is just a stepping stone.
Make The Most Of Your Youth
We can’t wait to grow up, be on our own, and have jobs that pay us big time paychecks. While you are going to have a new set of responsibilities doing adult things, don’t forget to be young. Travel with friends. Explore the world. Do the things that those of us in our middle age years wish we had done while we were still young.
Don’t spend all your time worrying about adult things just yet. Be young while you can. Life is going to happen quickly now. Do those things you want to do . Job, mortgages, and responsibilities are all going to be here waiting on you when you are ready. It is much harder to go exploring when you are deep in a mortgage and have a boss and a family to deal with.
Don’t Think You Have To Have All The Answers Now
Finally, don’t think you have to make life changing decisions now. The majority of you are going to take totally different paths then the one you set out on. THAT’S OK.
When I was sitting where you are, I thought I would be a congress woman, or a famous Broadway director. I almost laugh now at that thought. Life has a funny way of finding you when you least expect it. While I was in college as a theatre major, I had to have a job. The only job I could find that would let me off on evenings and weekends, was working in a daycare taking care of 4-5 year olds. After 3 years of college I changed my major to Early Childhood Education and ended up teaching for 15 years. It just happened.
If you don’t know what you want to do with our life right now… DON’T PANIC. There is no rush. Don’t let others pressure you into taking paths you don’t want to take. Take your own path. It may be rocky, bumpy, and at times confusing, but it is yours and yours alone. In the end, you may be surprised where you end up.
In conclusion, enjoy TODAY! Soon it will be gone, and like me, you’ll be standing in front of a younger version of yourself….wondering, “Where the crap did the time go?”