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What I Wish I Knew at Graduation: 5 Good Thoughts

Updated: May 15

What I love most about graduation season is all the good advice.

Seriously, there is no shortage of inspirational messages and heartfelt stories for pursuing your dreams. I can't help but remember my own graduation days when I knew with certainty that I had it all figured out.

Right. There is so much I wish I could say to that full-of-herself young lady. The truth is even if I could time travel, I'm quite certain 18-year-old me wouldn't have listened anyway.

It's still fun to think about -- what would older you tell younger you at graduation? Here's my best attempt with five good thoughts at graduation.

5 Good Graduation Thoughts

1. 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. Not a little bit of hard work, a lot of hard work. 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 hard work takes you to some incredible places.

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

A million people are going to ask what your plans are for your future. It feels like a lot of pressure to come up with something brilliant. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I'm still figuring it out.” Even better, say, “that’s a great question, what did YOU want to do when you graduated?” 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 ten-year plan or any plan other than to pursue the next season in front of you.

3. Do Figure Out What You Love.

When people ask you about your long-term career, share instead what you are good at and what you love. You never know how they may help you with your dreams. If you don’t know what you love, consider this the season 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.) 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 people. You never know how they may help you.

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

Shocking but true: there’s a lot you don’t know. But the good news is there are a lot of people around you who know smart things. Take a wise shortcut and listen to their good advice. Trust me, when you face hard things in adult life, your parents will be the smartest people you know. There were a lot of wise people who crossed my path in high school, college, church, work, including my own parents. I wish I would have taken more time to listen, ask good questions, and learn from their wisdom. God places some pretty amazing people on your path, be sure to take some time to learn from them.

5. You Will Never Arrive.

I thought life would get good as soon as I graduated or got the degree or the cool job or whatever was the next thing. Truth is, you never arrive at the place where the good life begins. Be present to whatever season you are in and embrace all of it. In time, the next season brings its own gifts and challenges. The good life is right now. Find joy in all of it because there is joy to be had. Stop wishing for what you don’t have and find gratitude for the blessings you have right now.

Bonus and Probably the Best Advice:

Surround yourself with a solid faith community.

Being a young person in the world can feel pretty lonely at times. Surrounding yourself in a community of faith might be the wisest thing you could do as a young adult. Church people helped me move, gave me good advice, prayed for me, reminded me I wasn't alone, and most importantly, hugged my neck every week. Simply sitting down with friends and other families over a fellowship meal was such grounding comfort as a young person. Having a community of faith to cheer you on and encourage might be the most life-giving advice of all.

What About You - What Advice Would You Give Younger You?

This week, find a way to encourage those in your circle who are launching into the world. Graduation cards and gifts are nice, but find a few young people you can go deeper with by sharing your wisdom and words in a meaningful way. Your authentic advice might be exactly what they need to hear. Be open to the young people God puts on your path this week and how you might encourage them for the season ahead.


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