I will begin this by stating that if any of you members of the Class of 2019 have read this far, thank you.
I congratulate you.
My guess is that many of the class have parents, grandparents, guardians, even friends, who have long come to believe that no message, no sage advice, wisdom from wise elders gets through.
Don’t fret it.
My parents thought the Beatles were long-haired freaks and I still don’t understand what country is lorded over by the Kings of Leon.
This, as will become evident in the future, is a life’s cycle, one that has been passed down by generations since the Revolutionary War.
Read history about, say, John Adams, and one will find that John the senior fretted about John the junior well into his late teens, and both were Presidents.
And they didn’t possess, hands to temple and a pause, any devices.
That seems like a fine jumping off spot for the musings from one who graduated high school and then, in mostly (emphasis here on mostly) equal measures, committed to or avoided all the advice I could stand to listen to at 17 or 18.
Admittedly, that wasn’t much, but here goes.
For crying out loud, look up
This is not simply aimed at teens.
I recently watched a woman go in and, at least 15 minutes later, come out of the Piggly Wiggly with her shoulder crunching phone to ear each time, ignoring everything, including the traffic and other people around her.
I am proud to have been born in an era where it wasn’t a given that spare time, or not spare time, was to be consumed looking at a device smaller than my hand.
This could become all Luddite (Google!) but we’ll stick to that saccharine cliché: there is a whole big world in front of thy face.
Yeah, might be depressing at times, maybe there’s a bit less of it, but this is still a place on Earth that carries unique charms and burdens.
People work their lives to retire here for a reason and Michael didn’t wipe it out.
But charms can become burdens when they are ignored or taken for granted.
The devices of today, the knowledge available via those devices is astounding and valuable, but the molecules of life, the keys to unlocking your soul or heart and uncovering the adult to come will not be found anywhere on a motherboard.
While looking up a little more, considering looking…
I have often believed that one reason so many take this area’s incredible assets for granted is they never spent a minute outside of Gulf County.
There is certainly much to be said for those who live and die without leaving, or desiring to leave, their hometown, their roots.
Straying from those roots was anathema.
That is to be respected.
But, I am also one who has felt, in the nearly two decades since I proudly donned the badge of “Blow-in,” that far too many folks of varying generations could have used other perspectives.
Other ways of life, other forms of speech, other eating rituals or diets, environments, friends, neighbors, heck, even other weather.
(I will now be able to bring first-hand knowledge to any tornado-hurricane debate, though after Michael, I do believe my internal debate was extinguished).
So, if among the advice you graduates are hearing these days are about broadening horizons; this would be a fine place to start for many.
Just as the trails navigated by those who stayed rooted two and three generations ago are commendable and honorable, so to are all those who blazed trails in other communities.
And, if that trail brings you back to your roots in time, as it also has for many, well then that is a sign you were always where you were supposed to be.
This one’s a bit trickier.
The forces that come at us in a bombardment of information, a desire to bend the path this way or that, will be constant and they will be bold and they will test any graduate.
Trust your gut, trust some of the fundamental lessons that were imparted or absorbed, in one form or another, positive or not, over the past 18 years.
Be willing to be bold in thinking behind that gut.
But, from this one corner, would also come the plea to be true to the human race and the adulthood you have passed into.
Today, empathy seems to be a species located between threatened and extinct.
We are all mortals; we are all in turn sinners.
None stand above any.
Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way: “The arc of the moral universe may be long but it points toward justice.”
My screen saver, anytime I have been in control of one, has for decades been: “Remember in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins.”
Don’t waste time
The last lesson I have learned and wish to impart is this: don’t waste time no matter the direction or path you take.
The past is the past; time and energy expended in the past is wasted.
And tomorrow, it is promised to no one.
Today is all that is guaranteed.
Both those lessons are largely lost on the young and strong, but it is a reality that you will come to understand.
The talking heads say it about boxing and champions frequently: Time is undefeated.
The same is true in life.
Enjoy your accomplishment: now, there remains plenty of work to be done.