The graduation advice I wish I had
I'm home in Arizona for my sister's graduation. While listening to the speech at her ceremony I realized it's been over ten years since I graduated from high school. The theme of the speech was something like 'go out and change the world' (like most graduation speeches). It made me think--how many people actually do? How far do you have to go? And what does that even mean?
No one talks about what actually happens to most people. Most people go out into the world and then come back. And the ones that don't are left in this weird place of creating a new home in a new place, sometimes over and over again. It's just weird to me that every parent seems to want his/her children to go and explore the world, but no one really talks about what happens if they do and then don't know if or when they'll ever go back.
I'm lucky that I have a very supportive family and friends that don't mind that we keep in touch via google hangout and instagram accounts, but it's still hard. It's hard to come back to a small town where everyone is married and most have kids and I get lost in supermarkets because they are so big. It's hard to relate to relatives and neighbors that don't understand what you do or measure you up based on how many degrees you have (especially if you aren't married and don't have kids). It's hard to make art and have a career, to maintain international friendships and try to date in a new city, to become friends with your sister that you now live with and be a sister to the ones across the country.
But I also know staying put or going back to wherever you came from is just as hard, for different reasons, and even some of the same reasons. And it's not really either/or--I've gone back to my parents plenty of times to regroup or reevaluate my life. And I'm sure you have, too.
I guess it's just growing up.
But maybe, instead of giving general change-the-world advice, we could give new graduates slightly more specific advice--like find out what moves you, try out everything until you get lost in it, think about what you do and why do you do it before you say yes to a paycheck. Figure out how to be a good friend, a good sibling, a good daughter/son, and don't forget what that feels like. Practice staying in touch with people you care about. Notice what makes you laugh and don't let yourself wake up another day feeling less than ecstatic. Learn how to be alone. Work at being the best at what makes you most happy, and then, once you get there, look around. You're probably out in the world. Doing what you love. Making it a better place.