April 23, 2014

Advice for the discerning high school graduate

Danedri Thompson
columnist
Dear Graduate,
I have some good news and some bad news for you as you prepare to collect your high school diploma this weekend.
The good news: Other than the piece of paper that declares you a high school graduate, few people will remember of care what you did at Gardner Edgerton or Spring Hill High School.
The bad news: Other than the piece of paper that declares you a high school graduate, few people will remember or care what you did at GEHS or SHHS.
You’ll hear lots of advice as you prepare to become productive members of society. You won’t listen to most of it, including that which I’m about to offer. (It’s about the same thing I wrote to the class before you, and the class before that.) But, I’m going to tell you the things I wish someone had told me when I collected my GE diploma anyway.
• Most importantly, following Christ will help you avoid a lot of mistakes. Reading your Bible won’t make you perfect, but it provides a pretty handy guidebook for all occasions.
• What you’ve learned in school isn’t all that important. If your teachers taught you what to think, they’ve failed. If they’ve taught you how to think, you should use that skill everyday with reckless abandon. From this day forward, you get to learn what you want rather than what someone tells you need to know. Make it a personal goal to learn something new every year, every month, every day. You’ve learned an awful lot in the last 12 years, but you haven’t even scratched the surface. Keep learning.
• Question everything. Half of the stuff you learned in textbooks last week may not be true tomorrow. When I was in elementary school, we spent a sliver of time learning that the earth was cooling and a new ice age might be on the horizon. You’ve all been told – repeatedly – that the earth is warming. I don’t know which is true – or if either matters. Read everything, but be very selective about what you believe to be true.
• Don’t waste the pretty. Do not, I repeat, do not waste time dating someone you know you will never marry. Having a plus-one is seductive, but oh the people you will meet if you’re single.
• By the way, the most important decision you will likely ever make is who you will marry. There’s no hurry, but pick the right person, and only do it once. Life is full of enough trials and challenges without adding the mistake that many,  many of your elders made by not picking the right spouse the first time. Make a personal commitment that you’re only going to the altar one time, and choose wisely. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make.
• Exercise. That fly metabolism you’ve got right now, it won’t last. Get in the habit now of going to the gym or taking a daily jog. Just trust me on this one.
• Learn to balance your checkbook. Do not acquire massive amounts of debt.
One of the dumbest purchases many people ever make is a fancy ride. Drive a beater that’s paid-in-full.
• There is a very simple equation for not being poor your entire life: Get married. Stay married. Don’t have kids until you are married. That is the simplest ticket to the middle class. If you figure out the equation to fabulous wealth, share it — the equation, not the cash — with the rest of us.
• Listen to your elders. It doesn’t seem like it now, but we really are smarter than you.

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