I didn’t expect the graduation to tap into my emotions. The opening notes of “Pomp and Circumstance,” though, made me catch my breath.

Those notes took me back to my chair in the trombone section, seated in the old Stryker High School gym, playing and replaying the familiar strains as I watched the latest class of seniors climb the steps to the stage and file onto the risers. As I played I longed for my own turn in the spotlight.

As life does to us in lightning quick fashion, my own turn came soon enough. So did the turns of my sons, and last Sunday grandson Connor took his place with the Montpelier High School Class of 2019.

I felt a deep sense of pride as I spotted the fine young man Connor has become seated with his classmates, but a bit of sadness crept in as well. It was time to accept that one phase of his life already is over, and he is moving on to the next.

There is so much I want to tell Connor, more than I would want to cram into a conversation. So I concluded to do it the way I do it best, to sum up my thoughts in writing. Not only can I express myself so much clearer this way, it gives the words permanence, something he can save and look at again down the road.

As I write this I think about Connor’s friends that I have watched grow up with him, primarily on the baseball diamond. So I concluded to share my thoughts with the rest of his class, to make this an open letter to them and anyone receiving a diploma this spring.

This is all guidance I wish I had been given when I carried my own new diploma back to my place on the stage, lessons life has shown me that may be of value. I know graduates probably have been bombarded with advice, so I definitely will keep it simple.

First off, if you have plans in place for the immediate future, great. Embrace them, throw yourself into them, and give it your best shot. Learn all you can.

Realize, though, that your educational or career choice might not be exactly what you expected. It may not be the match for you that you anticipated. Should that be the case, that’s OK. It’s OK to have doubts. It’s OK to change course. The important thing is to find satisfaction, and happiness. And only you are the judge of that.

If you don’t yet have plans in place, that’s OK too. Explore. Be inquisitive. Be open minded. Something you truly love may be waiting for you right around the next corner, or something you already are considering may begin to seem more and more like the right thing to do.

Should you be torn between two or three possible plans, that’s all right as well. Weigh your options, learn all you can before you choose. And as I said before, don’t be afraid to change course if things don’t work out.

Find a mentor, someone you can confide in and someone you trust. At each stage of your life seek out mentors. A mentor’s insight and guidance can be of incredible value.

No matter what, trust your gut. If deep down something feels right, go with it. Chances are it’s the right thing to do, no matter what decision you are facing. Life has shown me that there is indeed a higher power. Keep that in mind, and trust that sometimes things happen for a reason.

Don’t forget your friends from school. They can be the greatest friends of your life – but also be open to finding new ones.

If your family has been supportive of you along the way, keep them close even if life takes you far away. Family can be your rock, and you can be theirs as well.

Keep calm and steady, as best you can. You will encounter soaring highs and deep lows. All of these will pass.

Be aware that life is short. Before you know it, if you are fortunate, you will find yourself passing on advice to your own graduating grandchild.

Find humor anywhere you can. Laughter is the great elixir of life. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t forget to have fun. You only get one shot at this life, so make the best of it.

For any family members or friends of 2019 graduates, please feel free to pass this on to them. In fact, I would be honored and delighted if you do. For the graduates who are reading this, I hope you find something of value, a thought or two that may help along the way.

Finally, for Connor and for all you recent grads, I wish the best of luck as you embark on your life’s journey.

Don Allison, a Williams County native, is an author, columnist and retired editor of The Bryan Times.

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