1) Don’t worry about your education being practical.
My dad told me this when I was in high school and it is perhaps the best advice I’ve been given. Major in your passion, not in what you think will give you job security. In terms of my abilities, I could have gone into any subject. If I’d taken a different path, I’d be raking in the big bucks as a business executive. But I’d be miserable. I’m not into sales or cut-throat competition (except on the ultimate Frisbee field). Having a degree in creative writing is pretty impractical, but if I could go back in time, I’d still major in it. And I’d still fill my schedule with all the fun electives I took like wall climbing, karate, and art.
2) That money might just as well be in your pocket as somebody else’s.
This is famous in my family. It comes from my grandpa and means that you should never pass up a chance for free money. The best time I put this advice to use is when I decided to enter the Alma Highland Festival Queen pageant. I am not pageant material, but there was scholarship money to be won and it would cost me nothing to enter, so I went to the informational meeting. There I learned that it wasn’t a beauty pageant. There was no judging on looks and no need to get double sided tape to keep a swimsuit in check. (Good for me, because one of the entrants was a Barbie replica). Judging was based on interviews and speeches, things I’m good at. I not only won some scholarship money, I learned some fascinating things about Scottish culture, and I had a blast at the Festival as queen (including eating Scotch eggs, which you should really try sometime). If I had listened to my doubts about why I didn’t have a chance instead of acknowledging the wisdom of trying since it wouldn’t cost me anything, I would have missed out. There are a ton of scholarship committees out there just itching to give you money; do the grunt work to apply because that money might just as well be in your pocket.
3) Be kind. No, really.
I wish people didn’t have to be told this, but treat people with respect. Be polite. Smile at strangers; hold doors open; show patience. When you meet someone, focus on what you have in common, not on what divides you. It’s okay to disagree with people, and sometimes you must disagree if you’re going to be a person of integrity, but do it in a civil way. Don’t be an internet troll.
4) But don’t confuse niceness with kindness.
You know the phrase ‘cruel to be kind?’ It means that sometimes we have to tell people things they don’t want to hear. Being kind doesn’t mean you can’t firmly state what you feel needs to be said. Don’t be afraid of offending people. Sometimes people will be offended regardless of whether what you said was offensive. When I say that some Christian sects are misogynistic, it’s a fact. If people choose to be offended by that, that’s their choice. Stick to your principles.
5) Be willing to admit when you’re wrong.
You should always be questioning your beliefs. Oftentimes, you’ll come to the same conclusions you always have, because some things are absolute truths. But sometimes, you’ll change. The Holy Spirit convicts different people about different things and at different times in their lives. Some things are not black and white subjects. Lately the HS has been working on me regarding war and I am moving toward pacifism. Which means I believe my earlier self that dreamed of being the next James Bond had a mistaken world view. Recognizing that I’m different than I was at 20, and that I didn’t have all the answers then (nor do I now), helps me have patience with people who aren’t on the same page as me.
6) Spend some time as an adult being single.
You cannot be part of a good couple unless you’re first a good single. In spite of everything you learned from the movies no Prince Charming or Princess Buttercup will complete you. You are responsible for your own happiness and your own success. Yes, we need people for emotional support and ‘no man is an island’ and all that. But you don’t want to find yourself suddenly widowed and completely screwed because you always relied on someone else to cook or do laundry or balance the checkbook and you have no idea how to do those things. More importantly, you don’t want to have an existential crisis when in a relationship. That needs to be taken care of beforehand.
7) Never stop learning.
There are two types of old people. Fun old people and depressing old people. Education is what makes the difference. I’m not talking about formal education necessarily. I’m talking about having a healthy curiosity about the world. I’m talking about always trying new things, starting new projects, visiting new places. Challenge yourself. Keep an open mind. Though they’ve qualified for senior citizen discounts for some time now, I don’t think of my parents as old. Because they continue to play sports, garden, try new recipes, do puzzles, read, travel, and hang out with whippersnappers, they seem younger than many of their peers. This is the secret to a long and happy life.
Really, many of these are good advice for anyone, but a special good luck to the class of 2013!