Looking Back, Looking Forward

Leslie Jones' Avatarby Leslie Jones

Today is a day of great joy and great sorrow for me. On this day two years ago, I lost my beloved father-in-law. The hole he left in all our lives hasn’t yet begun to close. I still miss him every day; his wisdom, his positive outlook on life, his gentle ferocity.

Today, however, is also a joyous day, a hopeful day, a day brimming with endless possibilities. Today, two young friends graduate from high school and step into the vast unknown.

Ceremonies, speeches, well-wishers and parties. These two girls – as different as two people can be – are both intelligent, driven, and focused. One will train as a nurse; the other will learn creative writing. Both, I firmly believe, will do great things with their lives. So what words of wisdom can I offer them? Whatever I say will fall flat, because these are lessons they’ll have to learn on their own. Still, I’ll try, because I love them both.

  1. Be yourself. You are the best you, the only you there will ever be. Celebrate your uniqueness.
  2. It’s okay to fail. Failure is what we at this end of life call experience. Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, not a sign of defeat.
  3. Do what you love. You’ll get all sorts of career advice while you’re in college. Well-meaning counselors will tell you to get a degree in something practical. I say that’s hokum. After college, you’ll work for the next forty years. That’s an awfully long time to spend doing something you hate.
  4. Remember that courtesy counts. We all rush from activity to activity, hustle from place to place among crowds of people doing the same. Remember that the person serving you at the drive-through is a human being with feelings. Say please and thank you. Hold the door for the elderly.
  5. Stop worrying. Things inevitably work out the way they’re meant to. Worrying about things over which you have no control is a waste of energy. Instead, put that energy toward changing and improving what you can.
  6. Enjoy life. I don’t mean go to rush parties, although you should if that’s what you like. I mean, walk on the beach and feel the sand between your toes. Date a nice boy or girl. Watch a sunset. Go to an off-Broadway play with a group of friends. Sure, studying is important. But so is experiencing life. Find what nourishes your soul, and do that.

Today I am sad for the wonderful man I lost; but I am also so proud and happy for the two young women who graduate high school today. What a wonderful world of opportunities awaits them! Congratulations, my friends.

Do you remember the advice your parents or friends gave you when you graduated? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

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