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What I wished I had known
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GAYS MILLS - After spending four years in high school as a student and then 33 years as a high school teacher, this time of year is always special to me. On top of the excitement of burgeoning spring weather and impending summer schedules, the graduating seniors are rapidly approaching tectonic life changes. And I still feel, for them, the evolution about to come.

What can you say to a graduating senior, or a group of them on their big day? That’s the job of graduation speakers across the land and it’s a heavy obligation. You hope, in a few minutes, to impart some life wisdom and shed some light on the changes coming to a group of people that are at a mountaintop, watershed point of their lives.

I don’t recall anything that the speaker said at my own graduation. I wish I had been taking notes that day because I’m sure there were some meaty nuggets on life that would have come in handy. Graduates are usually preoccupied with so many things at graduation ceremonies that speakers’ wisdom and pointers go unheeded and possibly unheard. Maybe the grads should get a printed copy for future reference.

With that in mind, here, for what they are worth, are some things I would say to those graduating:

• Sometime, as graduation nears, and often after that, thank your parents profusely for raising you up to be who you are, for giving you a good start in life, and for their support. They did the best they could in the most important job in the world: raising you.

• Take notes. As you go through life, jot down important things you do every day. In other words, keep some kind of a diary or journal–a note to the future you about what’s going on in your life.

• Treasure your friends. The childhood friends you are sitting with at graduation and the legion of friends you will make for the rest of your life. Cultivate friends of all ages. To have friends, be a friend.

• Make a list of what you’d like to get done every day. Best done the night before.

• Be smart about money. Numerous books are written about this; read some of them. Schools don’t really cover financial literacy as much as they should. If your parents haven’t ‘home schooled’ you about money management, you’ll need to educate yourself about this important aspect of life.

• Never stop learning. You have now hopefully learned how to learn, mostly under the guidance of teachers. One of the great thrills of life is learning new stuff and now you get to choose what you want to learn about. We learn from the people we know, the places we go, and the books we read. Be a lifelong learner. 

• ‘Be kind.  Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.’ There is some confusion about who first said this quote, but it is good one to remember and live by.

• Don’t forget where you’re from. You hale from a wonderful part of the world and no matter where you go, remember your roots.

Congratulations and best wishes to all 2019 graduates.