Diplomas are in hand, parties are done, and if it’s still a thing tassels are hung in the rearview mirror.

Now the rest of your life begins.

I waited on purpose until this week to share my thoughts and advice for the Class of 2021 grads, who have been bombarded by well-wishers and are soaking in the last few moments with their classmates.

Right now my thoughts are with two high school grads, my grand-nephew William Paholak and Caitlyn Lyons, granddaughter of good friends. Although what I am about to share is focused on them, I hope there is some value here for all the grads now that the distractions are done and it’s time to get down to business.

For those going on to college, odds are you already have begun your summer job. If so, good for you. This is great training for what is to come. No matter how tedious or boring that job may be, give it your best. Work hard, treat what you are doing as important. That attitude will follow you, and will reap great future benefits.

If you have decided you’re not going on to college and you know that’s the right decision for you, the same advice applies. Give it your best shot. If you love the job and decide you could spend your lifetime doing it as a career, great. You are indeed fortunate, and I wish the best for you.

Should you decide the job sucks, that’s OK. Keep at it, but look for a better one. Keep in mind your likes and dislikes, and keep looking until you find a good fit. Who knows, you might also run across something you like that requires additional schooling, so be open to continuing your education as well.

Having an open mind, and being receptive to change, is really a key to happiness and satisfaction. If you’re going on to college, and once your classes begin you realize the chosen major is not really for you, that’s all right. Accept that, be on the lookout for something that is a better fit, and go with it. After all it’s your life. Take that to heart, and be you.

In whatever you are doing be responsible, but have fun as well. Seek and find joy. Laugh and love along the way. You only live once, so make the best of it.

Be aware that you will make mistakes. We all do. You will make your share. Don’t beat yourself up over your miscues, but do learn from them. Don’t make the same mistake twice. There are plenty of new mistakes ahead in the future, just never stop learning from them and forging ahead.

Another bit of advice from me is to be socially aware. Recognize that the quality of life in our community and our nation is up to you, and to all of us. Pay attention to what our local, state and national politicians are doing, because their actions can have huge impacts on your life. Speak up, and realize our leaders often do not have your best interests in mind. That is unfortunate, but true.

I bring this up because I see huge threats to our environment and our freedoms – to the point that I pray our nation does not turn violent again like on Jan. 6, and that your generation will continue to be blessed with a democracy, not an autocracy or oligarchy.

A recent social media post asked what three words you would like to tell your 18-year-old self now. I didn’t even have to think about my answer – life is short. My own graduation from Stryker High School took place 45 years ago. The sheer speed at which that time has passed is stunning. Even though I thought I understood how fast time flies, I really had no clue.

So don’t procrastinate. If you have a choice whether to do something today or do it tomorrow, do it today. Actually, check that – do it yesterday. If you do miss an opportunity and are fortunate enough to get a second chance, grab it for all you are worth.

And perhaps most of all, persevere. If what you try doesn’t work then learn from it, adjust and move ahead. As trite and cliché as it might sound, you haven’t really failed until you give up.

If you are a 2021 graduate, good luck. I’m pulling for you. If you know a graduate who might benefit from this advice, please pass it on. Should this help a young person in even some small way, I consider this effort to have been a fruitful one.

Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times. He can be reached at www.fadedbanner.com.

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