The Wide Angle: You haven’t made it, you’ve just started
Once again, it’s graduation time and annoyingly enough I once again have received no offers to speak.
So, I am going to lay out what would be some of the greatest advice you have ever heard right here, so when you are done reading it, you can cut it out and tuck it in your pocket for those days when the real world is just too much.
Now, I know what you are thinking: “I’m done with school. I don’t have to read anymore.” While, yes, this is true, you don’t have to read anymore I suggest you continue the practice, especially now as I dispense the knowledge of my years as a contributing and functional member of the real world.
So pick the red pill Neo and come down the rabbit hole with me.
As so many speeches go, I could start out with, “Well, we made it.” And true, you indeed made it — this far. I could also shower you with platitudes such as:
“The world is yours, make it of as you will.”
“You can do anything.”
“Well, you’re in it now.”
All are relevant, because you are in it now. You are in the world of home rent and mortgages. The world of paychecks and nine to five. The world of, “Crap, I need to do my own laundry.”
When I was just a lad of 18, sitting with my 12 other classmates in a school that eventually turned into a call center for Schwan’s, I remember thinking the whole world was in front of me, but sitting in the chair wearing the — quite frankly — hideous cap and gown — I was only thinking of the short term. My time in high school was ended and before me college, where I thought, “Yes, I can skip and my mom and dad can’t say a thing about it.”
Of course, in a frustrating turn of events, turns out they raised me well and I skipped very little. I think the first time I did, was the Florida Marlins’ very first game with veteran Charlie Huff throwing the junk of his knuckleball.
Living the life.
My vision, admittedly didn’t stretch very far on that day, or subsequent days after, but nevertheless, I was a solid C-student, ready to take on the world.
There wasn’t much about me that suggested I would or even could take on the world adequately. As a senior, I finally got passed the 100-pound mark on a less-than imposing 5-foot, 9-inch frame.
Putting it that way and I sudenly understand my poor dating record. Moving on.
I found out a certain amount of realities pretty quickly. Probably the first was that I lived in a pretty small bubble with a relatively small group of friends who I knew for a grand total of 12 years — some a little more than that, but not much more.
College at South Dakota State University opened that bubble a little more, and suddenly I realized I was part of a larger world. That larger world didn’t like me much. It demanded certain things of me: rent, bills, a job, car repairs. I no longer was at a point where mom and dad would support me in any other way than emotionally.
Sure, some things have come up that they’ve helped with, which I am immensely and eternally thankful for, but for the most part, I was on my own — as you will be too.
The real world is scary. I’m 43 and it’s still scary, but the great thing about being a teen is that right now, it may not seem that scary. What I would wager is you are starting to understand this, but maybe can’t grasp the entirety of it.
Don’t worry, you will.
Okay for the adults reading this, I want to take this moment to talk to the graduates. Really, only five readers now? Nuts.
Oh well, here you go. Listening?
Just be a good person. It’s that simple.
The world doesn’t owe you one single thing, where as you owe it everything, but you do have choices while living here. You’re responsibility takes on a little more importance than it has before, because as you head out into the world — on your own — you will become a representative of your species and now, more than ever, we need good representatives.
You could easily launch into the world, intent on conquering it, but keep in mind the pressure that involves. You will be working well into your life. When you stop working you will be gray and your knees will hurt.
So throttle things back — for now. Set goals and ease into things. The world’s not going anywhere — at least not yet. Some day the sun will expand and take the solar system with it and eventually the universe will collapse, but that won’t be your problem.
Take a trip, experience the world you are now more involved in. Understand your beliefs aren’t necessarily those of the person standing next to you. Stand up for yourself, but understand others will need help to stand. Work hard for your goals, but don’t step on the toes of the person making those strides with you.
Just be a good person.
Understand once again that you haven’t made it. In a lot of ways — you’ve just started.
Oh, and one last thing: Save me some cake.