It’s during this time of year that I typically attempt to write a few words to address the local graduates. Some years it’s easy to say just what I want; others, like this time around, I struggle.
Our world is in a continual state of change, graduates. This fact should not frighten you, nor should it intimidate you from pursuing your goals. It just means that with your diploma in hand, you have earned the right to join adult society: from this point forward, you are either part of society’s solutions, or part of its problems.
I cannot sugar coat the fact that the world now officially expects more from you than they did a couple weeks ago. Some of you have been working for a while already – adulting, as I have heard it called in the past few years. Some of you have made your coursework in high school a full-time job, and I respect that decision as well. But all of you share one thing beginning the moment they hand you that diploma: society expects you to get to work.
For some of you, it’s college; for others, it’s the workforce. Statistically, some of you won’t be doing anything, at least for a while: I strongly urge you not to take this path. Working and studying will not get easier as you age, and changes in your family or economic status will make gaining education or job training even more difficult years from now.
Think of it like the playground in second grade. The world works like those two kids swinging the long jump rope from either side: when you graduate, you’re essentially jumping into the path of that spinning rope. This time, however, you will have to keep jumping until you’re about 65 or 70.
That said, I would not have you believing that life is all about drudgery and repetition. While you are in these early years of your adult life following graduation, you have the chance to participate in a really exciting chapter of your existence. Never again will you get to live for yourself the way you’ll be able to do from the ages of 18 until 22 or 23 – unless you choose to do otherwise.
You can be dirt poor, living in shambles in an apartment, saving every penny to buy textbooks, eating noodle-based main courses (macaroni, ramen, etc.) for weeks on end, and still be having the time of your life.
When you are on the front porch of middle age like myself, it’s likely that much of your time will go to work, to family and to managing your home. But for the next few years, your goals are to become the person you want to be as a full-time adult, learn the necessary skills to pursue your chosen occupation and to make your spot to settle down – when you’re ready to settle down.
It is a good time to be alive, graduates. The world isn’t perfect – you’re not either – but you are under no obligation to leave things the way you found them. You have the ability to enact meaningful change, or to preserve what remaining good this world possesses.
Your school is having a ceremony to honor your having completed its coursework to the applicable state and local standards. Why have a ceremony? Why not just hand you the paper, sign the line and ring the bell? Because your community sees its past and future in you.
We see ourselves, remember the day we crossed floor and stage to receive our diplomas. We see what you have done and let ourselves dream about what you might do in the years to come.
You are our future, and society’s annual do-over, when we hope you avoid the worst of our mistakes and pray that you seize every success that eluded the rest of us.
Walk proudly, grads. You are joining a society that is rooting for you to succeed; go make us proud.n’t you think?
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.