Tomorrow morning, some of my favorite people in the whole world will celebrate one of the more significant milestones in their life. Along with over 400 of her own classmates, and about 380 of her …
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Tomorrow morning, some of my favorite people in the whole world will celebrate one of the more significant milestones in their life. Along with over 400 of her own classmates, and about 380 of her colleagues at the neighboring high school — a great many of whom I know — my own beautiful youngest daughter, who is way high on my list of favorite people, will receive her high school diploma and move on to the next phase of life.
Very exciting times!
I would love to take this opportunity to impart a few words of wisdom. Believe me, they do not come from a place of being wise — they come from the painful virtue of having survived a vast number of bad decisions. Take them for what you will.
• I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason. I believe that’s true. Some of them are there to challenge us to be better and walk with us through those challenges; some of them are there to make us feel good about ourselves; some of them are there to add value to our lives. Keep all of those people close by. Because, sadly, some of the people who come into our lives are there to remind us that it’s easy to forget our own intrinsic worth. By that I mean, there are people in the world who are mean and cruel simply because they believe they can be mean and cruel. And, you know what? They’re right … for exactly as long as you let them. Always remember who you are and how important you are, and when somebody treats you beneath that value, walk away. What you say on the way out is entirely up to you — just don’t demean yourself in the process.
• If I may quote a throwaway line from The Bard (and, for those of you who have no idea who that is, you can thank your modern curriculum): “To thine own self be true.” My former pastor used to say that the millennial generation is unique in that it tends to value authenticity above almost all else. Well, if that’s true, then live it. Be honest, be kind, but be yourself. It’s too hard to be somebody else. And even the most carefully constructed masks break under pressure.
I would follow that with something else from The Bard about “borrower or lender”, but many of you are about to sign up for 50k of student loan debt, with no other real choices, so…
• You know what? We, your elders, people even more ancient that your 27-year old cousin, know that we have made some mistakes. In fact, we’ve made some whoppers (among them is the abysmal state of education, but that’s for another day). Just like our parents did. And their parents before them. Try, even though it’s hard, to avoid the arrogance of thinking your generation holds a unique virtue that previous generations missed. Because, you know what? You’re going to make some mistakes, too. Try to learn from our mistakes without diminishing or obliterating the really good things we’ve done. Just remember: a bigot and a drunk and a mass murderer defeated Hitler in World War II (surely, you’ve studied that).
• The real world doesn’t let you do test corrections, or get partial credit for doing things late, or provide you with rubrics. Those of you headed off to college are about to learn for the first time how to really learn; and those of you headed for a career or service are about to get a crash course in choices and consequences. Approach it how Crash Davis advised Nuke: with fear and arrogance. Believe you can accomplish anything — prepare for it as if you know nothing. Boldness is only annoying in people who aren’t willing to work.
It’s a big world out here, and there’s a lot of room for people who dream big and work hard.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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