This is such an exciting time for you, as you make your future plans! You’ve learned so much and you have developed so many new skills that will help you be successful in whatever you dream to be. There are countless ways you have grown, and there will be so much more you will learn as you begin to navigate your life, making choices along the way. As you prepare to create a life of your own, I want to give you six words of advice.
Be wise. Every day you will have choices to make. Many of those choices will either help you, hinder you, or hurt you. Please think through each one and how it will affect your health, your priorities, and your future. Even the smallest decisions can have an impact on the biggest areas of your life. Please choose wisely as you go forward into your new-found freedom. You will have ample opportunities to do things you aren’t supposed to do or go places you really shouldn’t go. Please carefully consider the consequences of your decisions, and try to do the right thing, the smart thing, the responsible thing.
Be brave. It takes courage to make difficult decisions that are different from what other people are doing. It takes strength to speak your mind, use your voice, stick to your values and stand up for your beliefs. No matter how scary it can be, honor who you are and hold onto the things that matter most to you. It often requires boldly stepping through your fears and trusting in your own worth and using your inner strength. Oftentimes, the alternative is even harder to endure, so don’t deny yourself the opportunities you deserve or lose sight of who you are. Courage builds confidence and confidence builds courage. Keep growing in both with every step you take toward becoming who you want to be.
Be responsible. Learning to be responsible takes a lot of time and trial and error. It’s hard when you have so many things going on in your life that you forget your priorities and fail to follow through on some. Keep working on this as you realize being accountable is the key to success and being a responsible person is reflective of your character. Try your best to stay organized and carefully plan your daily and weekly schedules according to what needs to get done. Be mindful of responding to people and showing up when you say you will. Responsibility requires diligence and sometimes it demands sacrifice from you. There might be many things you really don’t want to do, but that’s part of life, that’s part of being an adult.
Be kind. It’s easy to be kind to people you like and people you respect, but I challenge you to be kind to everyone, which includes many others you may not like or respect. As you continue to experience so many new things, your world will expand and you will encounter more and more people who may not be like you, may not live like you, and may not even like you. Please have an open heart and open mind and try to find the best in others. It won’t be easy, but try to get along with everyone you meet. You might find that many of those people turn into your closest friends. The most important thing you can do is treat people the way you want to be treated. You can’t control what others say and do, but you can control YOU.
Be patient. You have lived in an age of immediate gratification, where everyone gets what they want instantly and if that doesn’t happen, it feels like a catastrophe. Here’s the truth about that: Most good things in life come to those who are patient, hard-working, and flexible. As you get older, you’ll realize there is no “instant’ anything that is meaningful and lasting. Almost everything in your life will be earned through a long road of endurance and perseverance. Saving for that new car will take tons of time and intention with your budget, getting that degree will take years of diligent study, landing that ideal job might take a dozen not-so-ideal jobs to get there, reaching that goal might take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and on top of all that, you may hit some hard bumps and tough turns on the way. The greatest achievements are the ones we work hardest for, so remember that when you are in the thick of it. I promise there is nothing more gratifying than arriving at a destination after a long hard-fought journey to get there.
Truth be told, life will get hard… often. Things won’t always go your way. You will make many mistakes and fail sometimes too. People will disappoint you and you will disappoint yourself. You might face trials that really discourage you. You might work so hard for something, for so long, only for it to be taken away from you. This. Is. Life. For. Everyone. The most important way to overcome any obstacle is to remain hopeful and do the next right thing. Don’t allow hardship to hinder your desires, don’t allow setbacks to keep you from trying, and please don’t allow your failures to define you. Some of the hardest experiences will bring about the greatest growth. Some of the most difficult detours will steer you on a better course. It’s all in how you handle your problems. When you are hopeful, you keep trying, keep learning, and never give up on yourself.
Dear Graduate, do your best to be wise and brave, responsible and kind, patient and hopeful. These character traits will grow if you allow them to. And through all the people you meet and the choices you make, through all the hard roads ahead and the lessons you’ll learn, they will help guide and mold you into the person you want to become, every day of your life.