Dear Graduating Class,
It may be hard to fathom in this moment, but your high school identity is not necessarily the identity that you will carry with you for the rest of your days. More than likely, you will be changing quite a bit in the next few years. And change is not something that this class is unfamiliar with given the circumstances of the last few years.
I encourage you to view the future as your very own choose your own adventure novel: the brightly covered books with unicorns and rainbows that I loved in my 1990s tweenhood.
You became a knight, an elf, or a fair maiden on a quest to:
(a) slay a dragon
(b) seek treasure or
(c) follow the shimmering light into the forest
The joy of the choice is that you really do not know what is behind option A, B, or C. It is the element of surprise and suspense that keeps you reading.
Your future holds a lot of trial and error, and change
Life is that way, too.
What your future holds in store is a whole lot of trial and error—and we learn the most about ourselves in unanticipated moments. Life has a way of turning corners when you are least expecting change; and change is one of the only real constants in life.
Some food for thought:
Soichiro Honda was 42 years-old when he founded the soon-to-be global enterprise, the Honda Motor Company. Honda spent years working in a bicycle shop before he was noticed and selected to be an apprentice to an automobile mechanic. He was recognized for his work ethic, and then promoted into the field of mechanical engineering. After many years of being self-taught, he emerged a leader in the automobile industry.
Julia Child, the famous chef, was 49 when her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published–and 51 when she made her television debut on “The French Chef.” While she was attending Smith College, she studied theatre and creative writing, and played a little basketball. When reflecting on her college years, Julia Child said, “I spent most of my time there just growing up.”
And did you know that Charles Darwin originally went to school to be a physician? He had to drop out of his medical program because he could not stand the sight of blood. I would wager a bet that many a geneticist is grateful for Darwin’s change in plans. He was 50 years old when he published On the Origin of Species, the research tome that would change the study of science indefinitely.
What all of these late-blooming geniuses have in common is that it took some time for them to find their true selves.
It’s okay that you don’t know what you want to do
SO, I am going to say something aloud to you now: It is okay if you do not know exactly what you want to do with your life at this moment.
I will say it again….
It is okay if you do not know exactly what you want to do with your life at this moment.
Be patient in the time that resides in between now and your next adventure. Sometimes our most important conversations or experiences happen when we least expect them.
I encourage you to embrace change because odds are you will never escape it. And to embrace this new beginning not as a notch in the belt of a carefully constructed life plan, but as an opportunity for wonder.
Audition for the play.
Raise your hand when a speaker asks for volunteers.
And when someone needs a hand-offer it.
When you are in a new city, turn off the maps app and explore the old-fashioned way. It is in the hidden corner book shops and bistros where life is really happening—not in the Yelp review.
Be kind to yourself
And lastly, I encourage you to be kind to yourself when you make a mistake. No one can claim they have never made a misstep–or cast some form of misjudgment in their lives. It is how you recover from these instances that matters most.
As you walk across the stage in a few months–and the days will go by quicker than you could ever imagine– accept your diploma, but also do me one small favor. A final assignment from me: I ask of you to take stock in the moment.
Look at the crowd. Feel the diploma in your hand representing your hard-earned four years of high school.
Feel the wind or the sun on your face (or the stifling warmth of the gym if you are indoors, but hopefully you are outdoors)-and commit the scene to memory.
Store it for a later date. This is your moment. It is not an ending-it is your beginning.
More Great Reading:
The 50 Best High School Graduation Gifts of 2023