Topic: The best advice for a teen just graduating from high school.
Purpose: I was flipping through my book today and came across this topic. I’m the oldest in my family on both sides. I received some sound advice when I graduated but a lot of it seemed to be cliché and was too little, too late. I have a cousin graduating this year and another cousin (or two) next year. This is for them.
The hat and gown suits you well. It seems to be the single outfit in human history to look great on everyone. Not only does it hide any physical abnormalities or dislikes about yourself but it, in all its plainness and flowiness, forces people to believe that you’ve accomplished something great – which you have. You graduated high school; an achievement that was 12 years or more in the making. The hat and gown you’re wearing – it makes people look at you with pride and accomplishment. It makes you, the one wearing it, feel good and special.
That same hat and gown is awfully deceiving though. It doesn’t give you a sure-ride ticket to anywhere unless you continue working beyond the blip of an achievement that you made. And I don’t say blip because high school graduation isn’t important – it’s probably one of the most important moments in your life. But it’s a blip simply because there are so many more great things you’re capable of doing going forward now that you have that checked off your outline of life. There are so many more moments and times in your future that people will look at you with pride and accomplishment – if you allow it.
If you’re lucky, your dreams for your future are clear. You have a plan and you’re going to go and get it as soon as this graduation party is over. On the contrary; you might not have a plan. You might not know what you want to do with your life. The dreaded “What are you going to do now?” has been asked a hundred times over the past six hours if not six months. “I don’t know” doesn’t seem to be acceptable even though it’s the truth.
Don’t be afraid to not know. That’s the absolute best advice I can give you. Don’t be afraid of figuring it out. It’s scary as hell but I promise you, it’ll be worth it. Simple the process of a future down. Go to and graduate college, get a job, buy a house, get married, have kids is still what people seem to want to hear. Even now in 2015, that’s what their ears are ready for. You’re 18, although thinking about your future is important and I wouldn’t abandon it all together, there is no use in thinking of the big picture right now. Consider each moment in your life a single picture creating a lifetime collage. All the milestone photos of your life will continuously accumulate, make them the absolute best. Be proud of what you’re going to do in your life. Follow your dreams, live your dreams.
Don’t be stupid and make detrimental mistakes. Don’t abandon those that love you; primarily your family. Appreciate the world and what it has to offer. Travel, make new friends, take photographs. Pay your bills on time and don’t be reckless. If you decide not to go to college – don’t waste those young years away. Understand the reality of real life and accept it instead of try to fight it. In doing that, you don’t need to give up your free roaming spirit or life. If you don’t see yourself in a typical 8-5 setting 10 years down the road, do something about it. You’re still going to need to make money to survive, accept it. Don’t rely on and abuse your parents financially. Save up some money and make wise decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Join the Peace Corps, backpack around Europe, fall in love, skydive. Do everything you possibly can because you want to not because society wants you to.
From personal experience, I do think college is important. However, I would only recommend college to those that know what they want to do. To those that do have a plan. I’m still paying off my 2 years of college debt 5 years later. I didn’t get a fancy job, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, I didn’t make lifelong friends, and it didn’t help me decide what to do in my life. But that’s me, don’t let anyone else’s experience deter you from living your dream. If I could do it all over again, I would have done more research in high school, visited colleges, and actually spent time to decide what I wanted to do. I would have moved away and attended a four-year college. I would have traveled abroad my junior year. But I never did because I felt that the resources weren’t available to me and I didn’t know where to look. That’s why you have me. What are your favorite things to do? Sports? Painting? Photography? Working on cars? Photoshop?
There’s something to do in the “real world” for everyone. You can become a sports reporter, journalist, newscaster. You can own your own art gallery or become an art professor. You can be a photographer on your own or with a media group. You can become an automotive or diesel mechanic, a shop teacher. You can become a graphic or website designer. The possibilities are endless, your future is wider than your arms are even capable of spreading. Don’t waste the days after high school graduation away. Find yourself but don’t lose yourself. Dream big and follow through.
So, even though this was important for you to read, take my advice; put this down and spend time with those that love you. Throw that square hat up into the air, smile until your cheeks hurt today and everyday. Be honest, take those milestone pictures, and show everyone what life is all about. Make your collage worth looking at.