‘Tis the season of commencements and graduations! It is an exciting time for graduates as they leave school and head into a new phase of life. It is also customary for many words of wisdom to be shared, encouragement to be given, and advice to be offered that the grads will hopefully take to heart in the coming months and years.
Having been out of high school for several years, now, I thought back on life since graduating and wondered what I would tell myself to prep for life after school. Some of what came to mind were lessons learned the hard way, others were interesting observations about how life changes. Most of them were things I wasn’t told about when I graduated but I certainly wish I’d known. Here are my words of wisdom to other grads – maybe you can relate:
- Many of the things that seem so huge and important now will be comparatively insignificant in a few years
Yes, all that high school drama will fade away in time and your focus will be on bills to pay, a family to provide for, a career to excel at. Your perspective will change and evolve as you mature and experience the ups and downs of life, so don’t fixate on all politics and gossip of high school.
- Grades don’t matter*
I say this with a side note – getting good grades is important and something to work hard for. However, as you enter the work force and go through life you’ll realize that character and good work ethic will get you farther than good grades ever could. And, for the most part, the hiring manager isn’t going to care what grades you got in high school chemistry or what your average was in algebra. Do your best, learn the character trait of working hard and applying yourself, but don’t get hung up on a poor quiz grade or worry over making the highest average in your class. It won’t matter in years to come.
- Get your sleep
As fun as it is to stay up late, getting good quality sleep – and enough of it – is an important habit to establish now. Sleep impacts everything, from how well you perform on a test to how enjoyable you are to be around. If you don’t take care of yourself now while you’re growing, you will reap the consequences later in life!
- Enjoy the time
While I was as guilty as any student in regards to wishing away my school days, I look back now and wish I’d enjoyed my time as a student a bit more. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to go back to high school(!!!), but there is something special about those carefree days with less responsibility, pressures, and concerns. This time of life is unique and doesn’t last very long, so cherish it before life becomes an endless cycle of paying bills, long hours at work, and other “adult” responsibilities.
- Expect your group of friends to change
As close as you are in high school, expect the dynamics of your relationships to change. A few of those friends you go to school with will stay with you for years to come; others will disappear from your life within months. Don’t be surprised either if people you hardly interacted with in high school become close friends; and, of course, new people will enter your life. Don’t be disappointed – this is part of the evolution of becoming an adult. Your relationships will continue to change throughout your life.
- Age isn’t a factor
When you’re in school, age is a huge divider – even just one year can seem like a huge difference! The longer you are out of school, however, the less age different matters in choosing your friends and mentors. You gain a new perspective on people and begin to see that the wisdom and experience of older adults is invaluable as you navigate the work force, make potentially life-altering decisions, and try new experiences. Some of your teachers (whether high school or university) will become amazing friends and mentors as you continue on your journey. And you may find that those who listen best and show you the most concern are those who seemed intimidating and aloof when you were younger. (p.s. their perspective of you changes as they watch you mature, too!)
- You’ll forget a lot of stuff
Yes, all that algebra, chemistry, biology, history, etc. gets forgotten over time. If it is relevant to your current job or career then those lessons will become invaluable; if certain subjects are not incorporated on a regular basis, you will replace that information fairly quickly.
- Appreciate what others have done for you
It’s easy to just list off your family and teachers during your speech and give them a cursory “thanks”. It’s easy to become self-focused during this time, with graduation, applying for college or university, taking career aptitude tests, and looking forward to the next step in life. But stop for a moment and think of all those who have been part of your journey to this point (teachers, parents, family, siblings, friends…) and really consider the investment, the sacrifice, and support they’ve given you throughout the years. They put up with a lot(!), they gave of their time and resources, they passed on their wisdom and knowledge because they love you and believe in you. Take the time to thank them personally and on an individual basis for specific investments that they made. But them coffee, send them a heart-felt note, find some sort of token or gesture to represent your appreciation and recognition for their efforts. It will mean the world to them to know that they made a difference. You’ll encourage them to continue touching other lives in the same way they did for you.