I ran some errands today, on Commencement Day. I drove through the university, and along my way, I saw students in their caps and gowns. Some were black; some were red with black stripes. There were parents walking with their children, couples holding hands with the wind blowing their gowns behind them. Today is a day of freedom for many students. Indiana U has about 40,000 of them, and while many will go home for the summer, many will not return. They are on their way to bigger and brighter things. It dawned on me today that a year from now, Wiley will be one of those on his way; that if he chooses, he will don the cap and gown, and we will join with friends, family, and thousands of other people to celebrate this happy occasion in the lives of our loved ones.
Today's graduates are confident and have the electronic wonders of the world at their fingertips. Better yet, most of them know how to use them, which helps in the "real world". Sure, on some things, they will be clueless until they get that job. College, unfortunately, does not teach you everything. You learn about history, about current events, about marketing, finance, how to sight-read, psychology, criminal justice, philosophy, how to swing a tennis racket or how to figure out your VO2 max. Some of this will help you, and some of it will be forgotten. Actually, according to my last job, we forget 75% of the things we are taught a mere three weeks later. Don't fret that you don't know everything, Graduate; you're not supposed to. Sure, people tell you you're supposed to have everything all figured out now that you're 22 and done with school, but life is a learning process that doesn't end when you leave the doors of your favorite (or least favorite) building. Keep an open mind to the situations you will encounter. Learn what you can and forget the piddly bullshyt. Do not get caught up in the rat race, and please don't compare yourself to your peers. You are setting yourself up for disappointment. Find your own inner compass, find what makes you happy, and go do it. Don't listen to the family members that tell you your chosen profession won't make any money. Let it go when your friend brags about their salary, which is double yours. There are more important things than money. Yes, you have to pay your bills, but do you need a Lexus SUV? Could you get by with something a little less flashy and more reliable? That's affirm. Get the job you want, get the shelter where you're safe and pets are accepted, make sure you can pay your bills and can save for retirement while at the same time spending some of that cash on a little fun. (I've found that living the 50-30-20 rule worked well for me in my previous life, where 50% of your monthly income is spent on bills, 30% is yours to spend, and 20% is to be put into savings for retirement.) Live simply so that you may simply live. Don't be afraid to try new things. Sometimes you surprise yourself when you try something - you may find that not only do you like it, but you're good at it. This new thing could be the start of a hobby or maybe someday a new profession. A friend of mine liked the Native American flute, so he bought one, and then decided he wanted to make them himself. He now has a very nice little business making flutes, and professional artists are using his product. But he just kinda stumbled into it. When you and your friends drift apart, you have a decision to make: try a little harder to remain in their lives, or let them go, and be glad you knew them for the period you did. Friendships come and go, and it's up to you to decide how much effort you're going to put forth to keep them going. Remain honest with everyone. Nobody is a mind-reader, and sometimes you really have to spell things out in order to get someone to see what it is you're trying to say. That's ok. I guess in this long list of what to do, it comes down to this: be true to yourself. Always. And enjoy the journey. Congratulations, graduates of 2008!!