Congratulations, Class of 2011.
One of you is my son. Since I’ll be sitting in the bleachers, squinting to see you walk across the stage to receive your hard-earned high school diploma, I want to write the words that I’ve tried to say to you at the dinner table, in the car, during commercial breaks on AFV.
You’ll be taking the next step—college—but your diploma is more than just your pass to the next level. It is the affirmation that you’ve done the work necessary to step out into the world and make your mark.
You’ve stuck with the days and weeks of classroom learning, assignments and projects, and test after test after test. Good for you. Because more than the A’s and B’s (and C’s and F’s, if we’re honest here), you’ve demonstrated something much more important and useful for a successful life, if not downright boring.
It’s what your grandfather calls Persistence.
It’s the first quality you have to call on as you learn how to live on your own, manage your workload your first year of college, or take on that first job. Morning after morning, the alarm rings, the coffee perks, the traffic backs up. The shelves need to be stocked, reports need to be written, lectures and more tests need to be endured. You’ll still need to find a friendly face to share a lunch spot.
In a lot of ways, it’s still like first grade, only taller.
You’re going to learn pretty fast that you’re no longer protected by “senioritis” and your dad’s checkbook. Your mother’s color-coded refrigerator calendar isn’t there with important reminders for deadlines and phone numbers. And your regular group of pals that you moved with from class to practice to Xbox sessions has disbanded. Everybody’s got their own dreams to reach for, and that may mean you’re not moving in the same direction. It’s okay; they’ll always be your high school friends, but now you’re one cranky professor away from a whole new group of comrades.
But when that class ends, so does that camaraderie. Just like those cells the science teacher droned on about? The ones that move around, bump into each other to form a cluster, then break off again to roam and form new clusters?
No, I don’t remember those cells either, but science for me lately has involved accidental penicillin in the fridge, and that unidentifiable smell in the basement.
The point is, you’re growing and changing and all those former “clusters” of friends are still around, all doing the same thing. The good ones will always be there for you, will always “get” you, will always be your friend. Be a good friend back, because the longer you stick together, the stronger you both will be. This is good; you’ll need each other for the tough times. And your first apartment.
You’ll bump into others—those who just want to use you for their own gain. Yep, you’ll get burned, and your dad and I won’t be there to warn you. Now your mistakes are your own to make. But that’s what scars are for: to learn from past pain. They’ll help you recognize the ones to avoid; they’ll help you protect yourself and guard your heart. And when the lesson’s learned, forgive them and turn them loose. Use your energy to go forward with your own life and interests, scars and all.
In other words, learn from your mistakes, pick yourself up, and get on with your life.
Always remember, you’re never too old to learn something new, and you’re not so precious that you can’t start all over at the bottom, once again. Stay humble.
Remember to fear God, trust Him and stay close to Him. He’ll be your salvation when you most need it.
Respect your elders. You can roll your eyes all you want, but if all goes well and according to plan, you’ll be an elder yourself one day. You’ll find yourself repeating your mother’s lessons and your father’s cuss words. And yes, you too will be fixing everything with duct tape.
Above all, don’t forget your family. We love you always, and we’re here for you always, even when it doesn’t seem like we are.
We hurt for you… we wince for you… we cheer for you… we pray for you. We have been with you from your very beginning…
And we have the embarrassing pictures to prove it.