Congratulations to our 2015 graduates. With the extraordinary help of your parents and persistence on the part of your teachers, you have crossed the finish line of the first phase of life’s journey. It’s definitely an exciting time where finally you will be able to live your own life, make decisions for yourself, and at last do exactly what you want.
Well, maybe. The good news is you’re now free to make your own choices, but wait, because the bad news is you’re free to make your own choices. You see, the world is becoming ever more complex and decisions get harder every day. You may make a decision that results in exactly what you want, and you may make one that leads you in a direction you’ll regret. Every decision you confront will ultimately be based on choices and how will you know when you’ve made the best — or right — one?
Therefore, as you walk out the door following graduation, keep in mind that from this day forward you own more than you ever did before, all the choices you will make and the directions you take. Your parents have spent the past eighteen years and your teachers the last thirteen equipping you the best they can to help you move ahead. Now that you’ve mounted that horse, you’ll be responsible for taking the reins and moving out along a path that will take you toward your dreams. Your family and friends will be there to support you (or sometimes lovingly chastise you), but the reality is you have to take control, evaluate your options, make critical decisions, and act on them in the best manner possible.
Although the next phase won’t be easy — whether you’re off to college, a job, technical training, the military, or somewhere else — but it will be full of exciting adventures — as well as pitfalls. I’d be remiss if I let you think it will be rosy from here on out, though, because there will be struggles, and failures, and sometimes pain. I’ve been there. So have your parents and teachers. We’ve each encountered our bogeyman from time to time but have used our abilities to think, communicate, reason, create and develop supportive relationships that help overcome them. Rest assured, so will you.
I often share my favorite movie line that goes something like this: Thomas Wayne says to his son, Bruce (a.k.a., Batman), “Why do we fall?” Bruce is unsure, and his father responds, “So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” You see, you will make mistakes and you will experience falls. Mostly small ones but some of them will be monumental blunders. The most important thing I personally hope you’ve come to realize these past eighteen years is that you can learn from those mistakes and get past them. Mistakes may be painful but they’re not permanent. If you don’t want them to be.
It’s going to depend on you and how you respond to life’s bumps and bruises. If after falling, you simply choose to sit in the dirt and cry about your lot, you’ll likely get exactly what you have coming — dirty (and maybe stepped on). If you instead choose to think through what are often complex decisions, make better choices, and take the action steps you need to pick yourself up and get ahead, you’ll do just that.
Eventually. Maybe not at first, but patience and persistence will pay off.
So once again congratulations on arriving intact at this milestone. Graduation is a time to celebrate you, as well as a time to thank those around you — your parents, teachers and classmates — who helped you get here. But, it’s also the perfect time to come to grips with the fact that life from this point on is going to change. Oh yes, it will change.
How it changes and how you respond will be largely up to you.