Dear 2021 graduates,
As I get older, I realize every graduating class has its own unique challenges, accomplishments and raw potential.
I love this time of year, and I’m consistently excited about what new ideas and viewpoints the new class of graduates has to offer. You have knowledge your not-too-distant ancestors could have only dreamed of at your age, and that expanse of information and potential innovation is only getting bigger by the minute.
Some of you have an organized, thought-out plan of attack when it comes to your future. Others have a general idea of what you would like your near future to include. Still more are feeling rudderless as you depart the safe harbour of the structured life of education.
All of these mindsets are perfectly fine, and it’s okay to be nervous and to feel that sense of unease that comes with any big life change. You are on your own path, and you get to decide what you do with it.
The good news is that even if you don’t feel ready, you get to make the rules for yourself and you get to set your own pace now. The bad news is it’s up to you to make those life rules and goals for yourself. Perhaps even worse, you’ve probably come to that realization that adults have at least partially been winging it this whole time.
Sorry, parents. Secret is out.
It’ll take practice to get used to adulting and you’ll find you might have to learn a few things the hard way. Hard lessons never really go away, and they may cost you something. So long as you learn from your mistakes, you can come away from it a better, smarter person.
Something else that never really leaves is being looked down on by older adults. Full disclosure, I will be 36 next week and I still get the “you’re young, you wouldn’t get this” or some other variation of the usual “kids these days” rigmarole. At the same time, I get weirded out by people who call me “Mr. Louis.”
I could probably pen a column about the subject of generations alone, but for the sake of time, I’ll keep it to this – have confidence in what you know and what you can do, but don’t completely shrug off the advice of a potential mentor. In the end, most of that advice comes from a good place, and mixing that older knowledge with the new is necessary to continue growing in anything you do. As much as you can learn from the older generation, it’s important to remember they can learn and grow just as much from you. It’s all about balance.
While we’re talking about people, don’t forget your friends. They can be hard to come by as you get older. Some may fall off the radar, and that’s okay; may those departures be natural and clean. But for those who hold on in your life, make time for them amid the noise and chaos of everyday life. Those bonds of support and love are priceless and so necessary.
Wherever you’re graduating from – be it secondary school, university or somewhere else – know that there are many of us who have gone before you who believe in your potential. Your future may lead you to a path of fortune and worldwide glory through innovation or you may eke out a quieter existence making your immediate world by doing small things with great love as you work toward something even bigger. It could be a healthy mix of both.
Regardless of the scale of your future endeavours and your dreams, you should know your path is no less valid than that of the person standing next to you or of your parents, your colleagues, your siblings or anyone else. As much as is possible, your future is in your hands, and no one can take that freedom to become who you want to become away from you.
Keep fighting to live the best life you can, no matter what. It would be irresponsible of me to say everything will turn out the way you want it to, but I encourage you to keep at it. Those goals and dreams are driving forces that keep so many of us going day by day.
Congratulations. I wish you nothing but the best as you exit your school that one, last time. I have absolute confidence in you. You’re going to be amazing.