June 5, 2014: Congratulations BHS graduates

June 5, 2014: Belmont Citizen-Herald

Congratulations, Belmont High graduate.

As you make plans to attend college–and 97% of you will head to college—any number of friends and family will offer you advice. Let me jump on that bandwagon. Here is my counsel and advice.

#7. Don’t worry if you don’t yet know what you want to do with your life. The most important thing you’ll do in college –something the Belmont public schools have unquestionably prepared you to do—is you will learn how to learn. The fact is, the job you’ll pursue as a career may not even have been invented yet. College isn’t a place to be trained for a job, it’s a place to learn how to learn so you’ll be ready for whatever the future might bring your way.

#6. Be quick to say “yes.” Someone will ask you to join a club or committee; say yes. Someone will ask you to play on an intramural sports team; say yes. Someone will ask you to help staff an event; say yes. You will meet some folks you do like and others you don’t. You will find some things you are good at and other’s you aren’t. You will experience some things you enjoy doing and others you don’t. Each such discovery is good. What if you never knew?

#5. If you have the opportunity to travel, take it. A Belmont High graduate I know took time off from college to live overseas for a year. At some point, he had to go grocery shopping for the first time. . .in a foreign city he didn’t know. . .paying in a currency he didn’t know. . .using a language he didn’t understand. In that day-to-day activity, even aside from his personal growth, think of the skills he learned (e.g., problem-solving, communication) that he can henceforth “sell” to a potential employer.

#4. Recognize the value of the pick-up softball game. Life in high school was highly supervised. Athletic events were refereed. Dances were chaperoned. Study periods were mentored. That pick-up game, where you must resolve the dispute of whether someone was “safe” or “out” at home plate, is not mere play. It is a rehearsal for working on a staff, with a project team, or in any other group setting.

#3. Take some classes just for the heck of it. I’ve always rued the fact that I didn’t take more history classes in college, not because they would have been helpful to the pursuit of my journalism degree, but rather simply because they would have been fun and interesting.

#2. Keep doing some of those things you did through high school. If you played the French Horn, find a way to keep playing. If you sang in chorus, find a way to keep singing. If you painted, find a way to keep painting. Whether through your school, a house of worship, a community organization, or some other outlet, don’t let those interests atrophy.

And my #1 piece of advice? Being called a do-gooder is not an insult. Perhaps it is working to improve the environment or to promote social justice; perhaps it is simply practicing civility in personal relationships. While the next few years will be a period of introspection and self-discovery for you, please remember that you are always part of a larger community. That community will be better off if you consciously try to “do good.”

Most of you I’ve never personally met. I can nevertheless say, without equivocation, that our entire community is proud of you. Godspeed on your upcoming journey.

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