My Advice to Graduates: You are going to screw up and other words of wisdom

The countdown to graduation is almost complete for one of my nephews and some of my nieces and cousins. I’ve watched these young people grow from toddling rascals to self-sufficient adults in a blink of an eye. Really, where does the time go? I’m sure their parents are wondering the same thing. Somewhere in between the umpteenth soccer practice, wishing they would JUST fall asleep already or nagging them to pick up their shoes, the kids grew up and are being sent out to face the world on their own. It makes me incredibly proud, but also serves as a great reminder of how fast life goes.

I am feeling nostalgic thinking of when I was in their shoes. I swear it was not that long ago that I was their age. Amazing to think of all the steps that took me from there to here. If only I had the foresight to avoid some of the pitfalls. Though I realize that even with the best advice, we tend to have to live through mistakes to actually learn from them. But if I could impart just some wisdom on these grads that they could refer to once in a while during their college career and early 20’s, maybe, just maybe, it would give them the faith in themselves to accomplish whatever it is that they want to achieve in life.

Dear Graduates:

  • You are going to screw up. There will be mistakes. But this is OK because it’s how you will learn what doesn’t work for you. The best thing you can do for yourself is learn from them and do it better next time.
  • You have so many possibilities ahead of you. Do not follow anyone else’s agenda except for your own. It doesn’t matter what path your friends are on or what your parents did at your age. This life is yours. Make it count. (I feel like I need to add a disclaimer if your parents are paying for your education. If you are accepting that assistance, some decisions might not all be yours.)
  • You have the power to make your dreams a reality. Do not depend on anybody else to make them happen for you. Working your ass off is the only sure way to success.
  • Travel. See something amazing. Experience something totally different than what you are used to. Explore beyond the city limits.
  • If you find yourself changing everything about you to make a relationship work, it’s not going to work. Cut your losses. You deserve to be loved for exactly who you are. That said, don’t be an asshole or you will be very lonely.
  • Friendships come and go…and if you’re lucky come again. Do not fret if you grow apart from your friends. Everybody needs to do a little soul-searching in their youth. The ones that are meant to be will find their way back into your life.
  • Be good to your body. Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs will wreck your insides and make your outsides look old. You have no idea how beautiful your skin really is right now. When you are 35 you are still going to want to run and play ball- take care of any aches or injuries that occur now to ensure that when you are “old”, you can still be active.
  • If you forget all of these things, just be sure to remember this one thing- that you are loved. You have family that has faith in you, that you can lean on, that will always, always love you.

This reflection on my youth and the lessons I’ve learned is a reminder that I still have a lot of life ahead of me. So those dreams I haven’t achieved, I can still work towards them. The places I haven’t seen, I still can visit. This is still my life, still up to me to make it all happen. Because all I want, at the end of this journey, is to be able to say, I did it all.

More graduation inspiration:


“I Lived” by One Republic

When I heard this song, One Republic’s “I Lived”, I instantly thought that it would make a great graduation song. Might be good to put to a picture video for your grad.

“Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Lurhman

I’m not sure if any advice that I could dispense is anywhere near comprehensive and useful as Baz Lurhman’s song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” If you haven’t heard this, you must take the few minutes to listen to it. And if you have, listen anyways- the advice is still valuable today.




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