No matter how much the world changes, putting on a cap and gown and marching in formation to pick up your high school diploma is still a big deal.
If you are one of millions of high school graduates crossing the threshold into adulthood this spring, know that completing your high school education means something.
Every day, local newspapers, including ours, extol extraordinary teens who did well all the way through school with help from stable and supportive families. They have their lives and goals mapped out.
The odds are better-than-even they will go on to do well. Experts have said if a person can manage to graduate from high school and can avoid having a child before turning 20, then the chances for a good life increase substantially.
But perhaps we need to expand our definition of “extraordinary” to include those of you who had to dodge a lot of shrapnel to get to graduation day.
You, who persisted through the trauma of poverty and chaos it can bring; who often had more responsibility than a kid should have; who had to ignore the naysayers and doubters in your own families who have nothing to show for their cynicism.
There ought to be recognition of those of you who never told even your closest friends of the struggles and abuse you’ve endured yet still managed to graduate.
You, who put up with being bullied almost every day because you look, think, act or see the world differently than the herd.
Those of you who thought about suicide but didn’t do it, perhaps because of something a teacher said, or because of a song lyric, or because you saw a pinpoint of hope in the distance. That you made it through to the other side confirms you are extraordinary.
In the days to come, you’ll hear a lot of advice about what you should do with the life that awaits you.
For one, don’t go into unnecessary debt. It sounds silly, but debt is a form of slavery.
Find your tribe
Secondly, find the courage to be true to who you are, even if it means you must put some distance between yourself and others. You would be amazed at the adults who never embrace who they really are, who have settled for the safety and sameness of days rather than the thrilling uncertainty that comes with the truth.
If you remain faithful to yourself, you will find your tribe.
Everyone has a talent. Don’t let fear, or “what if,” or other people talk you out of pursuing yours. Develop and hone it, and make it pay so that you never have to go to “work” a day in your life.
Understand that what you plan and where you end up probably won’t be the same destination.
See as much of the world as you can. It will open your mind — putting you ahead of most Americans — and you will find that humans essentially are the same. We’re all looking for love, friendship and acceptance.
Lastly, find a way to make the world a better place. Don’t let the cares of this world cloud your vision.
Show us how it should be done.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP