Across the great state of North Dakota thousands of high school seniors are graduating this spring. They will wear funny hats and robes, receive congratulatory cards and listen to commencement speeches that are far too long. Most of these speakers will aim to inspire. They will call for service to community, humanity or the planet. They will exhort students to dream big, to never give up, to seize the day… and something about carp fish.
Inspiration is all well and good but I believe that amidst all the jubilation our graduates might benefit from a bit of hard-nosed realism. So, without further ado, here are five points to ponder for the class of 2015.
1) You are an adult. You may not be legally allowed to buy handguns or alcoholic beverages. Your parents might help you move into your dorm or apartment. You may feel that other adults still speak to you like you are six years old. You may have all kinds of reasons to feel like you are still a kid, but you’re not, you’re an adult. That means you have bigger things to worry about right now than buying alcoholic beverages.
2) Borrowing money as an adult is different than borrowing money as a child. You can now take out a loan in your own name. That’s not always and everywhere a bad option but it does mean that, as an adult, you can now ruin your life with debt if you’re not careful about it. Because you are an adult no one but you is responsible if you take an unwise loan and though that decision will hurt others it is very likely to do the most harm to you. Don’t borrow money just because it looks like everyone else is doing it.
3) Real life is not like television/movies. Hopefully you figured this out in high school but if that’s not the case then you need to familiarize yourself with this fact immediately. If you have already realized that life is not like television or the movies make sure you remind yourself of this fact on a regular basis. Real jobs are nothing like the jobs shown on television. Real bosses are not like the bosses shown in movies. Real friends won’t put up with that kind of nonsense. Real success doesn’t immediately follow a montage. The bizarre combination of lust and puppy-love that Hollywood portrays as romantic love will not get real human beings through the ups and downs of real life.
4) Regarding relationships with your peers of the opposite gender: Remember that you are only young once. That’s a good thing. It means that if you can make it through just a few years of keeping your pants on then you will have a very good chance of making it through life without destroying either your future or someone else’s as a result of your own naivete, selfishness and/or lack of self control.
5) You have either recently become old enough to vote or you will do so very soon. You have the privilege of helping to decide who will control the levers of power in the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the planet. Your influence is minimal (there are over 300,000,000 of us here) but it is real and important. If you won’t take an interest in politics out of a sense of responsibility then I advise you take an interest out of a sense of self-preservation. You can be drafted. You will be taxed. Ronald Reagan used to remind people of Pericles’ observation that “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics that doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” There’s a reason that phrase has been quoted for over 2,000 years.
Congratulations and best wishes to the class of 2015!