The 5 Things I Wish I Knew in 2009
(My Ode to the High School Graduates of 2017)
By: Ryan D. Daniels
Times has a funny way of flying by without us even realizing it until we decide to pop our head up from whatever task we’ve dedicated ourselves to and we realize that days, weeks, months, or years have passed by since some significant milestone occurred. That’s how I feel about my high school graduation. I graduated from high school on June 9, 2009 and in the eight years that have lapsed since then I have done a lot of living and a whole lot of learning inside and outside of a classroom.
I remember who my graduation speaker was but I don’t remember what she spoke about. To be honest, I feel like most high school graduation speakers rely on the same script: quote some random current slang or some current hip hop song to seem relatable to youth, drudge up some old clichés, or use some old anecdotes; sometimes effectively and sometimes not so effectively. I have been to or livestreamed at least three high school graduations this weekend alone and for the most part they followed that formula.
However, I didn’t need someone to tell me in 2009 that I just needed to hop up out of bed and turn my “swag” on I wish someone would have told me these five things that I am going to impart on you in this piece.
Number One: You are smart, you are wonderfully made, and eventually you’re going to fail- That sounded a tad bit harsh but it is the truth. We all are intelligent and we all have something meaningful to contribute to society but at some point or another we are going to fall short of our goals. However, it’s not about the failure, beloved. No, it’s about how you respond to your failure. Will you give up? Or will you adopt a new approach? It is up to you to decide.
Number Two: Figure out what matters you- In your late teens and into your early twenties life begin to come at you at a relentlessly fast pace. You’re officially “adulting”; this can easily become overwhelming and all consuming if you allow it. However, the stronger your foundation the better prepared you will be to weather the storm. That means you need to know what keeps your grounded and what matters to you. When life’s storms are tossing you left and right, on whom or what can you turn to? What are the unchanging constants in your life that can pull you through? Is it your family? Is it your friends? Is it your faith?
Number Three: You aren’t special- Yes, you’re talented. Yes, you’re wonderfully made. Yes, you’re intelligent. But you aren’t special. You aren’t special but you are UNIQUE. However, at this very moment there are literally thousands of valedictorians, salutatorians, homecoming or prom queens or kings, best dressed, most likely to succeeds, super star athletes, students with tens of thousands of dollars worth of scholarships, and the like crossing high school stages across this country. Do not allow plaudits and awards to define who you are. Be a person of character, be a person who is a change agent, be someone who advocates for the little guy. Your high school awards after today mean nothing to anyone but you and your loved ones. Build your foundation on attributes other than your academic abilities, your athletic prowess, or your good looks and charm. Ask yourself if all of that was stripped away who would you be? What is your purpose? And are you living in your purpose?
Number Four: Don’t lose yourself- Once you leave mom and dad’s house and you’re thrust into a new world free of curfews, free of bedtimes, free of regimented class schedules you are left to figure out who you are. But do not lose yourself in the process of trying to figure out who you are. Do not compromise yourself or your home training trying to be like everyone else. Be okay with saying no to an invite to a party, be okay with not doing things that go against who you are. You will NEVER find happiness trying to be someone you’re not.
Number Five: DO NOT STRIVE TO BE LIKED- Yes, we all want to be liked, but at what cost? If we always strive to be liked by everyone around us think about the moral gymnastics and the like which we would have to subject ourselves to. Always making sure we’re saying the “right” things even if it feels wrong to us. Never truly and honestly having an opinion because you want to be accepted. So I say this never strive to be liked but always strive to be respected. Be steadfast in your beliefs but also be open minded and open to new possibilities and opportunities. But in the grand scheme of things never forget who you are.
At the end of the day, I just wish I would’ve known or heard this: you do matter, you do have a purpose, and lastly, do not compromise yourself for the comfort of ourselves.
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