A Special Message for our Area High School Seniors

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Dear Graduates:

Those of you completing your 12th grade requirements for your high school diploma or GED have been on my mind for the past few weeks. These are supposed to be the best weeks of your life so far. Yes these, right now. But, they’re not.

Your graduation dates were postponed, proms didn’t happen, and most of end-of-year banquets celebrating the year-in-review for all your activities (band, sports, civic) got skipped. Chelsea and I were talking about how much you, your parents, your best friends, and family have had to give up this year and how badly we feel. It’s so much to sacrifice.

No one saw this coming, especially you. No one could have changed the decisions that were made to protect all of our health and safety. No one wanted you to miss anything, but how are you supposed to feel better? That’s what I’ve been thinking about with you all on my mind. I remember how I felt about these days when it was my turn to graduate from Bryan High and start my future. What, if anything, could I offer you that might be helpful? Maybe one thing.

Adults succeed by having great plans, and then great back-up plans, just in case. It definitely keeps down disappointment. Do you have a second-choice college, college major, type of job you can get if your first job disappears? Rather than seeing the “lack of” celebration, you’re getting creative in how you approach your graduation.

If you have a Plan B (and Plan C) before setting out for your dream career, job possibilities, cities you  want to travel to, and multiple goals, you just doubled and tripled the ways you can be happy. Develop contingency plans before you need them is one key to success as an adult.

Today’s senior class is already ahead of your peers—You are exceptional young people, to be congratulated for your courage and kindness in treating others. I have a few more tips for you, as you jump right into adulthood.

First, a question: What do you want your time on Earth to mean? When you live out your life, to the fullest, say you make it from age 18 all the way to age 100. In the next 82 years, what do you want to have been known for? Think about all the people in your life who you consider “awesome,” “cool,” or at least a “success.”

Do they have characteristics in common? Do they think the same way about people they work with and who work for them, if they have people working for them? Are they good bosses? Are they kind? Are they honest?

Those traits, right there, are ones to strive for in your adult life and after the first 18 years of your life, that pattern that you follow has been set up by you, for your future, at least by the time you turned 13. Before that, you had plenty of time to learn right from wrong. You’ve caught enough grief if you messed up in bad decisions.

Maybe you’ve already received a lot of prizes and congratulations for doing a good job each time you try something new. Or some of you have managed the last five years very quietly, without making any plans to succeed or fail at. No one knows exactly what they want to do for certain. Many young adults reach their graduation stage and they still are not sure about what they’ve chosen 100% will work out as they dive headlong into the next steps.

Have you noticed that your counselors and your principles ask you a certain question: What are your plans? Remember when you were very young and maybe your grandparents asked you: What are your dreams (when you grow up)? Just because you turn 18, in the eyes of the law you are an adult, but in reality, you are not automatically going to know what you want to do.

In some cases, it’s important for you to get a job and earn money. College is not an option yet, not right now at least. Survival is more important. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it’s a great thing that you’ve been able to do that.

One of you might be walking into college with scholarship funding that you’ve worked hard to earn and qualify for. One of your classmates has collected income from four years of part-time employment working late at night while they went to high school. Which one of these two high school seniors do you think is better prepared to be a successful adult in a career?

The answer is “both of you.” There is no guaranteed, sure-fire way to know how any young adult is going to respond to the changes that come along in daily life. I’ve already mentioned having one (or two) backup plans. The next skill you need for success is to be able to adapt to change—easily.

Fortunately, the younger you are as an adult, the easier it is to adapt to change. So far, maybe you’ve moved once or twice from the town you were born in or attended school at one, two, or maybe gone to school in three different cities. Things at the “new place” are rarely like they were at the “old place,” and your comfort zone that you’re used to can change.

For years, we’ve seen how hard it is for some older adults to accept change as what they can accept easily. In our grandparents days as young people, traditionally you had one job as an adult for your entire career. You’d work for the same company in the same city and never once would you think of moving. Your family would be in the same house from the time you start school until you graduate.

That rarely happens anymore in this day and time. There are exceptions of course. But, when businesses succeed, people get promoted and move up in their jobs and away to another town. And, if a company fails, it might be necessary to move to another town to get a job with the same income or chance of long-term employment. Therefore, another adult tip is to never be so fixed to a particular job or career that you can’t pick up and move if need be.

Have several skills that you can turn into a full-time job in your lifetime. For one thing, you might enjoy having another type of career after 10 or 20 years in one field of work. For another, showing that you are willing to learn new skills or relocate makes a company want to retain you in their organization rather than let you go, if they have to downsize the number of employees who work for them.

It can be a little sad that you have to think this way, but it’s 2020 real-life experience and you are coming to terms with this reality at the same time as people who have been in the workforce for 10, 20, 30, and even 40 years now. That’s a real advantage you have, even though it might not seem like it. Be flexible!

If there were no obstacles, what would you like to be as an adult? What did you dream of being when you were six years old? How many times did you change your mind in the past 12 years? One thing to keep in mind all of your adult life: the things you dreamed of doing, being, or becoming—they are still within your reach and grasp.

So many adults give up on their dreams way too early. Then when you reach your 30s or 40s, you say, “I should have,” or “I could have” and you regret what you didn’t give more effort to doing.

So, as you have time and opportunity, never give up on your dreams or let someone talk you out of them. The chance of “what is possible” coming true in your lifetime is better than you think.

As you exist currently in a world surrounded with rules, regulations, guidelines, and restrictions, please know that in time, things will get better, for all of us. Never give up on your dreams. There is always hope. We always have hope, and faith, that tomorrow will be better. With the Class of 2020 leading the way for our future, it will be an amazing future for all of us.

Congratulations to each of you who has learned to adapt so well this past 90 days. Thank you for being such good sports about delayed or postponed or cancelled traditional ceremonies. By the time you complete the next milestone in your life, things should be much, much better. Best wishes to each of you and hold your heads high. The best is yet to come.

Cody D. Jones ‘02