Monday, February 6, 2012

Graduation

This Thursday my 3rd graders will be graduating from Wawoo Middle School and moving onto high school. For many, this is much like the step Americans take from high school to university. You take entrance exams and have fallback schools. This is that first big step into the direction you want to move for the rest of your life.

The kids have been coming into my room all week to chat and say goodbye (and practice their wrestling skills before they have to 'study'). We both know that the chances of us seeing each other again are slim. It's sad but I'm glad to see them go. I'm not a trained teacher, but I know how a teacher feels when they see their students go on to bigger and better things. You wish the best for them and are so proud. It's parental, and for a 23 year old guy that's a feeling I'm not use to. I love it.

I've also been thinking about how, 6 years ago, I graduated high school. I was a big nerd back then. My group of friends were and still are some of the greatest people I know. You fool yourself and promise that you'll stay friends forever, but even in 6 short years you're surprised at how many people have fallen out of contact. Fact is, some people move faster than others. In high school (and college too) you're grouped by your age. You move at the same pace. Once you graduate, the pace you set for your life is completely up to you. That freedom is paralyzing, intoxicating, and exhilarating all at the same time. You can do anything you want...be anyone you want to be.

As my kids graduate now, there is so much I want to tell them. I want them to know how amazing life gets. I want to warn them of the mistakes I made. I want them to always carry a towel with them...to be prepared for anything and everything. Most of the advice I got at my graduation was crap. It was cliche after cliche wrapped in Eve 6 songs and self-pats on the back. That's probably why I was able to beat the Elite 4 on Pokemon Silver while my fellow classmates graduated...these words were useless to me.

Yet here I am, 6 years later and wanting to regurgitate the same old words of years' past. Turns out, some of what they had to say was true. I picked up some more along the way, and I feel like I'm finally at a point where I can give some advice.

So, for my students at Wawoo Middle School, here's 12 things I learned in life so far that have guided me to where I am today. Some are worn out cliches, yea, but that doesn't make them any less true. I hope they help you along the way.

  1. Labels are for suckers. You'll find people (and maybe yourself at one point) who want to categorize and place people and experiences in some kind of hierarchy. All that does is limit you to the status quo. Don't just accept your lot in life - challenge it.
  2. Time doesn't slow down. It gets faster. Every older person I've met so far has told me the same thing and, even at 23 years old, I can feel the years rolling by. Don't waste it.
  3. Keep moving. At times, you will want to settle down and remain stagnant. Everyone slows down at  some point. The ones that achieve greatness, however, always are heading somewhere...even if their final goal is somewhat hazy. Also, literally moving all the time will keep you healthy and active. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Walk to the store instead of driving. Enjoy being young and fit while you can.
  4. Compete for the right reasons. There are so many competitions in life. Careers. Social status. Love. It's all a competition. There are 7 billion people on this Earth who want the same things. But you should be competing for yourself...not for someone else. That leads me into the next one:
  5. Play the game how you want to play it. This is the game of life. There are no rules, no restrictions, and no mulligans. Don't buy into the hype that you have to do things a certain way. You always have a choice to go down a completely new path.
  6. Dive into the places most fear to tread. You want to go travel for a year at a time? Do it. Want to try a different career just for the hell of it? What's stopping you? You like a girl at the bar? Tell her how beautiful she is! Someone once said "Do the things you fear, and the death of fear is certain." When you're fearless, you can do anything you set your mind to. 
  7. Never dismiss good ol' fashioned hard work. Sometimes you just have to keep your nose down and work. Your chance will come, and if you're working hard you'll be ready to seize it once it does. Just don't mistake hard work for over-working yourself...otherwise you might miss out.
  8. Breathe. No, seriously. Right now, take a deep breath. Close your eyes and do it again, this time through your nose. Feel that? Feel the air flowing into your lungs and your heartbeat slowing down? That's you. That means you're alive. Everything else comes second. Take the time to remind yourself when life comes bearing down on you.
  9. Try your best to love everyone at first sight. This one is more difficult and took me a while to accept. Once you start approaching people with love, you'll start to realize how beautiful each and every person is. That's when relationships are formed and you start caring. We weren't meant to travel through life alone. 
  10. Crying is not weak or pathetic. Tears just mean you are capable of the deepest of human emotions. Embrace them.
  11. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Don't make excuses for not living the life you want to live. If you are in a dark place, find a friend to lend a hand and pull you out of your rut. You always deserve better, but don't let yourself be your worst enemy! You're wasting precious time and thoughts on feelings that will get you nowhere fast.
  12. Life is hard. It is suppose to be. The people who have it easy haven't truly lived, mostly because they aren't willing to risk failing. Everything you want in life...every inch you take must be fought for with sacrifice and hard work. And if you fail, get up and try something new. It's only when you're on your knees looking up that you find out what you're truly made of, and you can use that will and determination to get the things you want in life.
Thanks for the wonderful year guys! We've created some wonderful memories together. Good luck in high school and on the crazy road life takes you. I'll see you on the other side!

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