An open letter to the graduating seniors

Many of you were born in 1996 – the same year I graduated from high school. Chances are, I was old enough to be babysitting you and your siblings at one point in time.

In 1996, the world was a clean slate for me just like 2014 and beyond will be for your and your peers.

As a reporter, I have covered my fair share of graduation speeches from valedictorians and salutatorians alike.

Many of these high-honor roll students spent days, if not weeks, preparing a speech that none of you are going to care to listen to – trust me, I have been there and done that. All you want is for your name to be called so you can shake some school administrator’s hand, grab your diploma and declare “I AM DONE!”

But, trust me, you are nowhere near being DONE. You are not done until the day you die, and life is too short.

Here are a few lessons I have learned since 1996 (and remember, you folks were still wearing diapers!)

  1. If you are lucky, you will remain friends with a few classmates from school, just don’t expect everyone that signed your yearbook to call, email or text you every day. It won’t happen. But, also, many of them will fall off the grid – maybe even you. Falling off the grid is OK … make something of yourself.
  2. Do something great each day. This doesn’t mean do something FUN, but something great. Make someone else smile. Lend a caring shoulder/ear. Help an elderly person carry his/her groceries to the car while you carry your 12-pack of beer in the other arm.
  3. Don’t be afraid to succeed – too many times we are told to not be afraid to fail. Be proud of what you become in life. Push yourself to the limits. No one can hold you back except for YOU.
  4. Take your time. Don’t wish for the next five or 10 years to fly by. Because honestly, they do.
  5. Unplug. Leave behind your cell phones and iPod and enjoy the world around you. Chances are, life is more exciting than what you are reading on a teeny-tiny screen anyways. No one is ever going to say, “Man, I wish I looked on my phone more often!” on their deathbed. No, you are going to wish you saw the clouds, sky, grass, flowers and people around you. Engage in live conversations with people. Don’t hide behind a computer.
  6. Keep in touch with your parents. You may be itching to “leave the nest” but the nest they created for you will always be there. Let them know how your classes are going – even if they are tough and mind boggling. Let them know if you like your job. Just because you have graduated from high school doesn’t mean they have graduated from being your parents. They still love you and want to hear about your life.
  7. LOVE.
  8. LIVE.