Graduation is a ‘risky’ business
May is a month of celebrations and new beginnings for both high school and college graduates. You will no doubt be hearing from many people that a world of amazing new experiences, opportunities and adventures await you. This is true, but only if you are willing to take a risk and say yes to them.
No venture starts without some type of risk; in fact you’ve been taking risks your whole life. From taking your first steps, to entering your first kindergarten classroom you’ve said yes to many risks. Maybe you’ve said yes to taking difficult classes, yes to moving away from home, yes to meeting new people, and yes to being vulnerable. Whether you succeeded or failed the risks you’ve taken have defined you and your character.
This is not to say I advocate taking foolish risks that compromise your or someone else’s safety. But often, the worst outcome when you take a risk doing something new is that you fail — and even then, failures are valuable learning experiences that help you succeed in the future.
When I was in college, I took a risk and joined the cross country team, despite never competing in high school and without knowing the first thing about running. In my first race, I finished dead last, though you never would have known by looking at my exuberant, smiling face in the photo snapped of me at the end of the race. I came to love running. I worked hard, improved and ultimately ran faster. While I never finished in first place, I never finished in last place again. I could have walked away and said, “No, this really isn’t for me.” Instead I turned this failure into an opportunity; in fact, it was one of my best decisions in college and I gained friends from it that are still close to me to this day.
Taking a risk is uncomfortable, even frightening — something as simple as talking to an unfamiliar person is a risk. But there are ways to make it easier. When I was a runner, some of the women on the team coached me into visualizing the race — the really steep hills where I’d want to quit. It helped to have the goal in sight to make it past the obstacles. One of the things I encourage students to do is to take a picture of themselves having met their goal. If they want to go to graduate school, I take a photo of them dressed in a doctoral robe. I tell them to keep it somewhere they can see it and take some form of action every day that brings them closer to their goal.
You might hear older and wiser people remark that they regret not having taken a risk. It may have closed the door on an opportunity they’ll never get a chance to realize. As you get older and acquire more responsibilities and demands on your time, the risks you take become more calculated, and you may become more apprehensive about taking them. But, just like in kindergarten, you will continue to grow and develop based on the risks you choose to say yes to.
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation. You’ve worked hard and earned the chance to celebrate. It’s the beginning of your next adventure, and your next opportunity to take a risk.
Abbie Kroesen is the associate dean of Student Affairs at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs – Spring Valley.
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