10 Things to Tell the Graduates
For my job, I manage the digital content and write much of it for our newsletters at O.Henry magazine. One newsletter is more of a curation of older pieces but we’re working on adding in new items and evolving it. I wrote this piece as a little bit of advice to high school or college graduates and thought I’d share it here. First, though, an embarrassing photo of me with one of my best friends at my own high school graduation in 1996 (by the way, we are still great friends and have seen each other through some of life’s hardest moments. She’s beaten cancer not once, but twice!):
- Stay out of the sun. Although a golden glow might make you feel sportier, shinier, sexier, you are not a car. You’ll thank me when you’re not rubbing Lexol on your face in 20 years.
- Write down the little moments that make you laugh, cry, smile or just take your soul by surprise. Sure, when they happen, you’ll be certain you’ll never forget them. But you will. Unless you write them down.
- Get to know – and fall in love with – who you are when no one is looking. Try new things and discover what sparks curiosity. What lights your heart on fire? Follow that. The world needs more fierce passion and authenticity. Let your weirdo flag fly.
- Choose friends carefully and make time for those who feel like sunshine. Remember that you are the sum of the five people you hang around most, so consider who embodies the qualities you most want to see in yourself. A wise father once said, “You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” Just stick with the picking of the friends and leave noses out of it.
- Remember that it’s never too late to start something new. Getting to that chocolatey chewy center of a Tootsie Pop might take you three licks, or it might take you 1,374. No matter how long it takes to get there, it will still taste just as sweet. Just don’t give it to the damn owl.
- There are few things in life that a long walk or run in fresh air can’t cure.
- General rule: If you wouldn’t want your mother to know about it, don’t do it. Because you know, if it’s at all embarrassing, someone is going to post it on social media for all the world – including future employers and in-laws – to see.
- Eat your veggies, but also eat the damn cake. Your body is a temple. Food is meant to nourish you, but it’s also a gift to be savored.
- Master the art of saying no. Protecting your time and honoring your limits is a gift to yourself and the world. Say no to what doesn’t feel aligned with who you are, or what you know is going to require more than you’re able to give. Start practicing now and it will get easier with each, “No, thank you.” Think you can handle it? (The answer here is YES!)
- Trust yourself above all. According to author Bronnie Ware, the biggest regret of the dying is this: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Don’t be that person. Listen to the whispers from within and live life fully on your own terms. Make your choices based on hopes and dreams rather than fear. And when it’s your turn to name your biggest regret, let your answer be, “I have none. I came, I saw and I lived the life I imagined.”