This past weekend, which included both Mother’s day and my birthday on Sunday the 12th, actually had a more important event take place on Saturday the 11th, (sorry Mom)...my nephew Kylen’s high school graduation!
Despite the range of emotions that I hadn’t anticipated at all to come flooding in as hard as they did, there was a very clear range of thought and understanding as well. The realization of what these young folks have ahead of them was all too prominent that day. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Here’s what I learned:
Be kind. Be respectful.
I cringe at the thought of how I behaved when I was the age that these kids are. I’m cringing right now as I type this. I stole hours of the other kids’ time that they’ll never get back. Hours of their time they could have used to learn something they cared about and made use of, be happy, or maybe just feel safe or secure. Instead, I prioritized my need for attention and what I thought at the time was “cool” or “funny” and I stole their time from them. I was a bit of a bully and definitely a loudmouth. I was actually the opposite of cool or funny. It’s embarrassing to think about.
Behaving like that is the single biggest regret of my youth that I have, only a slightly ahead of how rude and disrespectful I was to the teachers. These teachers cared for us and only wanted to see us succeed and live good lives. In some really messed up way kids enjoy tormenting their teachers and I was no exception. I was a little a**hole and am completely embarrassed and sorry for the way I behaved as a student and could not imagine today as an adult, a child or teenager treating me that way. It’s disgusting to think about and I can only apologize and tip my hat to the underappreciated, undervalued, and overworked teachers.
Be kind and respectful…it’s not that hard. It’s harder to be unkind and disrespectful. I would know.
You really can be whatever you want. Really…You can.
Then, at 18… I believed it. Today, at 37…I still do. It was somewhere in between that I stopped believing and started accepting. I started settling for less. Believe me, I’ve had a very privileged life and I don’t carry too much regret around with me either, but I am fully aware that my potential has yet to be realized. I hope that no matter how long I live, I always feel this way.
These kids have their whole lives ahead of them and no matter how many times they hear it or see it, it is up to them to believe in themselves and pursue their goals and dreams. They can be whatever they want…so can I…and so can you.
Your path in life will take you places you did not expect.
Seeing and hearing all these young students’ plans for adulthood had me smiling. Not in a mocking way or anything, I just found it funny. I wish I had some actual data to back this up but I believe rarely do your documented, post-high school graduation life plans work out the way you intended. Even if the final destination works out, the path is never what you imagined. Things come up. Things change. The adaptability and adversity that humans have in reaction to change in circumstance might be our most overlooked attribute of all.
It’s how you adapt to the change that matters.
Congratulations to the graduates this year. Enjoy your moment. You’ve earned it!