Message for Graduates

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One of my favorite times of year is graduation season. It's a joy to see students celebrate the culmination of a journey and embark on another. I love seeing the eyes of parents and loved-ones well up with pride. But, as I reflect on my journey after high school, I wish people were more honest with me about how life would be after high school. So, here are my tips for graduates.

1. Reach for every crazy dream and lofty goal you have. Don't let anyone taint the vision for your life with their cynicism. It doesn't matter where you grew up, whether or not you had both parents, you could have been a foster or homeless youth. Your dreams and goals are valid, and you put them within your reach when you blend your God-given talents and abilities with hard work. You will face obstacles and disappointment, push past them and persist anyway.

2. Explore, live a full and productive life. Most importantly, learn and understand who you are and who you are not. Your sense of self allows you to understand your passions and clearly articulate your needs, wants and aspirations. Your sense of self should not be in comparison to anyone else's journey. There is no such thing as an age by which you should have accomplished anything. Go at your own pace; everything will happen for you in its own time.

3. Find work or hobbies that are tied to your passion. If you are fortunate, you will be able to make work out of your passions. If you cannot, make hobbies out of things you are passionate about. When you do, you enrich your soul and add to the depth and quality of your life. Too often, we focus on the means we need to survive and forget to do what it takes to live. So we must make time for things that matter to us most, those things that set our souls on fire, things that bring us joy and fulfillment.

4. You must also understand that we will inevitably face disappointment. Not every experience we have will be a positive one. At times, you will have to be amenable to incremental change and small victories. But no matter how disappointing an experience may be, you must not lose hope that things will get better. What is meant to be will be, and even though it may not seem like it now, everything is going to be okay. So, take a deep breath, chin up and press on.

5. Finally, understand that anything worth having is worth working for. The road you embark on that leads you to your dreams and success will not be an easy one. But I promise you every twist and turn, every bump and detour will be worth the view from the top. Often, people get discouraged and turn around because there isn't as much comfort as they'd like. But if you can get yourself to push past the discomfort, great things await you.

The life I have lived was not easy by any means. I have dreams that I don't share out of fear they might be too bold or lofty. One thing I know for sure is I don't think God would give me any dreams and desires that are out of my reach. The same is true for all of you. Everything you want to do, everything you need to do, you can do; you will not fail so long as you understand that rejections are lessons, delays are not denials and when you fall you should fall forward, get up and keep going. Put God first; without him, we can do nothing. The journey is long, and it is not easy, but it is worth it, and I know you will change the world for the better.

Congratulations and best of luck!