Sometime after I bought my first 45 record with babysitting money in the seventh grade, I decided the song “You’ve got a friend” by Carol King was my song. It is a song about the kind of person I wanted to be and I wanted my friends to be. It has come full circle for many of my high school classmates, especially as we reconnect in anticipation of our next reunion. A few months ago I posed the question: What advice would you give a graduating senior?
As you graduate high school and take off to be accountable to only yourself for a while, here is some advice shared by members of the Franklin Township High School Class of 1981 from Somerset, New Jersey. We graduated 30 years ago today.
Trust us. We are not as old as you think we are. There is nothing new under the sun. The problems and drama you face today are equally as troubling as the problems we handled years ago. You just have cooler technology now. Looking back, we learned life’s greatest lessons. We want to share it with you and remind ourselves.
- Be careful on graduation night.
- Sometime down the road –maybe in the middle of your life – you will think back to high school and suddenly laugh out loud over your teachers’ quirks. Remember the one with the weird socks or the one who sang and made odd noises? Enjoy having known them.
- Thinking of high school teachers, one day you may work for a micromanager that has his own way of running the show and insists on insane levels of organization in the office. Send a thank you note to the teacher who insisted on notebooks looking the same way. When you need to get organized, you’ll be right back in that classroom.
- When a crisis looms, stay calm and keep your dignity. Something will always work out if you work hard enough and treat people the way you want to be treated.
- Don’t rush through life. Enjoy the simple pleasures of today. In this hectic life we all live sometimes we wait for tomorrow or next year or vacation or retirement to get to the projects we want to tackle. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
- Take the time to say thank you. Whether someone held the door for you, promoted you or gave a gift, a thank you is always appreciated. Old school, snail mailed thank you notes are still a welcomed surprise. People always remember that you sent a note.
- You are graduating into a culture that changes as fast as technology is produced. Keep in touch. The people you hang with today may not necessarily be the people you want to be with 10 or 20 years. Our class didn’t have Facebook. We were privileged if we had a private phone line in our bedrooms. Most did not.
- Support your classmates in the military. When they’re serving our country away from home, they need to hear from you. Never underestimate the power of boosting someone’s morale or making them laugh.
- Take care of your health and get sleep. This is really easy to undervalue.
- Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. When you are passionate about something and want to make a career out of it, then working hard to make that happen doesn’t seem like work.
- Make a plan for your future, but don’t stress out about going to college and turning the world around in four years. College isn’t for everyone. Think it through and make a plan.
- Never stop learning, however. Your curiosity should not be silenced. Read. Read offline. Take a course. Go to a seminar. Listen to National Public Radio. Love music. Talk to your elders. Discover something. Investigate. No matter where we are and no matter what our financial situation is, there is always a way to learn something new.
- Take time to be alone with your thoughts.
- People change. You will too. Friends slip away. Some come back into your life. Years from now you may become good friends with someone you only casually know now.
- If there is something nice you want to say to someone then say it. Don’t be afraid to be sentimental or complimentary. You might just turn the day around for someone.
- At some point in your education you were the subject of charity whether you knew it or not: grants, scholarships, donations, acts of kindness, and property taxes were used to educate you. Be charitable in your heart and your actions. Going forward, with every success you have in life, remember to give thanks and give something back, whether it is time, talent or treasure.
- Don’t be afraid of love. You probably know more families that are divorced than are still married, or close to it. Share your heart, just don’t give it away. Loving someone with your whole heart is an amazing gift. Years from now, you’ll applaud the high school sweethearts that got married right away and remained married.
- Have faith in your life. Have faith in yourself, too.
- On Money: If you earn two dollars more today I promise that you will find a way to need three dollars more tomorrow. If I could roll back the clock I would spend less time decorating and collecting stuff and put more money into long-term savings before I ever bought sweet wheels.
- Sometimes you just have to show up. Apply this rule when least expected.
- Keep peace in your home.
- Save your yearbook. In 10 years, you’ll make a comparison. Some 20 years from now, you’ll laugh hard. By 2041, you’ll need it to remember. Yet, you’ll love looking back on it all.
- We still think the diner on Easton Avenue is the “hangout.” Stop laughing.
- For us, the Franklin Township Middle School will always be OUR high school and the Franklin Township High School marching band will always rock. It’s a 1980’s thing. You had to be there.
To all Class of 2011 graduates, have fun creating your own legacy. There’s a lot of look forward to and more you will look back on.