My advice to the graduates
April in Glenwood
This is the time of the year, as graduations release the next generation of young adults into the world, when I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.
OK … three, maybe four.
When I see the fresh smiling faces of recent graduates, I remember what my life was like at 18. I was a vulnerable clean slate, starting off with nothing more than a college acceptance letter, an ’87 Mustang, and a penchant for pool parties. I was young, not-so-dumb and full of leftover teenage angst. Just a month before I graduated from high school, I was only 17. So, in short, I wasn’t much of an adult. In many ways I still felt like a kid.
I’m sure I thought otherwise.
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In the irrelevant numbers of years I’ve been out of high school, I’ve made many decisions that have forced me to question my own sanity. As much as it’s hard not to look back, I’m still prone to do a double take over my shoulder to doubt choices I’ve made. That’s human nature — to reflect in hopes that we’ve at least come out of a ridiculous situation by learning something. I will never, for example, mix champagne and rum drinks with a New Year’s Eve straight out of “When Harry Met Sally,” without the happy ending. I will also not make a point of kissing someone at midnight on New Year’s when I’m dateless.
So many lessons learned in one night.
Revisiting the past may not help my future much. I am, after all, 40ish. There’s no use going back to anything that predates my smart phone. But maybe I can help someone from the younger set avoid my own silly mistakes. Then they can get on with a life someone might write a book about or base a movie on. In my Lifetime movie, I would like Bo Derek to play me.
Complete with the “10” braids.
Most grads know the drill. They will hear the typical, “Pay your bills on time,” and “Don’t skip class.” I concur. The former helps you have good credit and not go into debt. The latter helps you get better grades and achieve a higher GPA.
But it’s the advice I’ve been given in my four decades in life that I think is best reserved for new grad ears. For example:
1. Don’t get discouraged. Especially when people don’t believe in you. It happens. It’s not a lot of fun, but it happens. I know people second guess me. I take responsibility for whatever reason they might have for that, even if it’s not my fault. That’s the Midwestern in me. But I also have to prove to the people who doubt me wrong. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be going anywhere but chasing my human vestigial. And that is just going in circles, my friends.
2. Show up. This is lesson No. 1 in Stand-up Comedy 101 but it applies to general life, too. If there’s an opportunity presented, take it. Show up and get it done. The opportunity might be embarrassing or even painful, but it also may be the best thing you’ve ever done. Or it could be the worst. That 50/50 chance could mean an audition for a Broadway play or applying for law school. Unlike eating fast food, I never really know what’s going to happen until I try. If I had decided to not enroll in yearbook class in high school, I probably wouldn’t be writer. If I had never made the move to Colorado, I wouldn’t be a rafter. If I had let nerves and the nausea drive me away from telling jokes on stage, I wouldn’t be a comic. These aspects of my life are reality. And all I had to do was show up.
3. Be kind. This is advice my mom is the best at living up to in life. Quite simply, she raised me to respect other human beings, animals and nature. I always try to be compassionate and aware of people’s feelings. I practically go into a panic attack when I see a puppy or kitten because I want to hold it so bad. I freak out inside when I see someone litter. I’m not a big fan of hatred or bigotry. These are all basics when it comes to kindness that I learned from my mother — and my dad, too. He deserves at least some of the credit. There’s not much to it, and I hope more people give it a try. It’s what the world needs now.
Most importantly, grads, don’t get a face tattoo. That is, if you want to work in corporate America. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t fly in the board room. But for those people who decide a face tat is a good life decision, more power to you. Just find something in life that requires showing up, getting it done, persevering and being kind.
Sounds like a life well-lived to me.
— April E. Clark is learning to live without texting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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