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What Would Older You Tell Younger You?

5 Thoughts on Graduation to 1987 Me

I’ve been thinking about 1987 a lot this week.

Not only because the 80s were one of the coolest generations of music (no offense classic rockers.) But searching for something meaningful to share with graduating neighbor kids has put me in the way-back machine to my own graduation.

As I struggle with the right words, I consider what I would have wanted to know. What graduation words would I give younger me as I look back more than 25 years?

My first reaction is to say all the cliché things like, “Dream big! Anything is possible if you only believe!” Or “Go conquer the world!” But I think I could do better. Here’s what my grown-up self would tell my 18-year-old self -- that is if I had actually been able to listen.

1. Don’t Think You Have to Have it All Figured Out.

Hey, a million people are going to ask you what your plans are for life after high school. It feels like a lot of pressure to come up with something brilliant. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know.” Even better, say, “that’s a great question, what did YOU want to do when you graduated from high school?” Chances are they set off on a course they never followed, but it still makes for interesting conversation. Give yourself grace not to have a five-year plan or any plan other than the next season in front of you.

2. Do Consider What You Love.

When people ask you what you’ll do with your future, instead share what you think you are good at or what you love. You never know how they may help you with your dreams. If you don’t know what you love, consider this a good time to begin figuring it out. I dreamed I was going to be the next Lois Lane and work as the town newspaper reporter. I told my local postmaster about my dream when he asked. He ended up hiring me (because of course he was the secret newspaper editor and I didn’t know it.) I thought all my dreams had come true. It ended up not being my dream job, but it did start me on the path to figuring out I did love telling stories and listening to people tell theirs. Now is a great time to figure out what you love and share that with others. You never know how they may help you.

3. Your Parents (and Others Around You) Are Smarter Than You Think.

Shocking but true: at 18, there’s a lot you don’t know. But lucky you because there are a lot of people around you who know smart stuff. Take a wise shortcut and listen to their good advice. Trust me, when you are soon facing the hard things in adult life, your parents will be the smartest people you know. There were a lot of smart people that crossed my path in high school, college, church, work, including my own parents. I wish I would have taken more time with those people to listen, ask good questions, and learn their wisdom. God places some pretty amazing people on your path, but you have to be willing to pay attention to their goodness.

4. Life’s Hard, But Hard Work is Your Super Power.

What sweet graduation cards don’t tell you is that dreams are wonderful, but you’re going to have to work hard at them. And it’s going to take some time – probably a lot more time than you thought. To top it off, your friend may get hired before you or make more money than you because their Uncle Bob knows someone. But hard work, disappointment, and tough situations all make you better and will ultimately pay off. Sometimes not right away, sometimes in ways you never expected. But consistent, persistent actions take you to some amazing places.

5. Lastly, You Will Never Arrive.

I thought life would get good for me as soon as I turned 18 or got into college or got the real job or whatever was next. Be present to whatever season you are in and embrace all of it. In time, the next season brings its own gifts and challenges. You will never arrive at a place where the good life begins. You are living the good life of this season, right now, at this very moment. Find joy in all of it because there is joy to be had. Stop wishing for what you don’t have and start wondering what you will do with all of your blessings.

Hey 1987 – Thanks for the Fun!

1987 had a lot of neat things -- fun music and memories. But it had a lot of things I’m happy are gone – miniskirts, neon, and big hair. Looking over my advice to my 18-year-old self is also a wise reminder to my current age self. The world is still my oyster, it just might be a different-looking oyster than the one from 1987. Adventures are still ahead for me if I’m willing to seek them.

Now it's your turn, what advice would you wish you heard at graduation?


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