Dr. Wes: ‘Tis the season of graduation. A time of reflection, celebration, and sadness all rolled up together and concentrated into a walk across the stage and a party or two afterwards.
Then the real world begins. Things are over. Other things start. That’s why they call it commencement.
It’s a familiar view from my chair, sitting across from seniors and their families, desperately glad to finish the climb. Wholly unaware they’ll come to miss it just as much.
But this year it’s been a bit more personal for me. After 12 years practicing in Lawrence, I’ve accumulated a larger number of college and high school grads than ever before, and I’ve been busy running from small, intimate pinning ceremonies for nursing students to large arena-sized events, responding to a flood of invitations from families and kids.
I find myself more deeply moved this year at the sight of young people crossing that stage. Maybe its because I’m now three years away from graduating my own senior. Or maybe I’ve just watched so many of these kids grow up from middle school through college that I take a special pride and joy in their success.
I know how difficult it is for students these days; how hard it is to make all the right decisions at all the right times, just to get to wear those disposable gowns and funny looking caps.
During finals week, I wake up with vicarious test anxiety dreams — the ones where you forgot to go to class all semester and now you have the exam. So I can’t help but get a little misty knowing what they’ve been through. They know who they are, and I want to say today in our column how proud I am of them, how proud we all are, that they have each found their way to the other side of the stage.
As is our tradition in Double Take, we offer our teen co-author a chance to share her commencement advice. We’ll get the joy of Miranda Davis’ work for another three months, but she no longer writes as a high school student. Miranda is now a young adult and a graduate, and I know the readers of Double Take join me in congratulating her, as we have our other friends and loved ones this season.
Miranda: To my fellow graduates this week, I offer the following thoughts:
- Be resourceful. As the price of college continues to rise, we have to draw on every resource we have. Use bikes instead of cars, take care of clothes so they last longer and make every penny go as far as it can. For most teens, the moment when their parents announce they’re not an endless tree of money is coming soon, if it hasn’t already. Learning how to budget from that summer job will take you a long way past August.
- Don’t get too caught up in the freedom. According to my college friends, there’s a whole lot more freedom coming to each of us. No one tells you when to go to bed, makes you study for that big test or advises against drinking a two-liter Mountain Dew for breakfast. There will also be greater freedom in substance use or abuse. The opportunity (and the pressure) to go out and drink will be almost endless, and many teens don’t make it past their freshman year because they partied too much and studied too little. All those decisions are now up to us. With great freedom comes great responsibility.
- Make a plan, but be flexible. Think about what you want to major in and have a loose job plan for after college, but don’t be afraid to change as you learn and develop in college. Dreams change, and hopefully you will be influenced by your new life experience. Many freshmen and sophomores change their majors in the pursuit of finding out what they want to do. Just don’t get lost as a permanent student because you can’t make up your mind.
- Enjoy yourself. College isn’t just about a degree at the end of four years; it’s about who you become on the way to that next graduation day. Try new things, get out of your comfort zone, meet new people and make a few mistakes. Appreciate every single moment, savor every new experience and don’t forget to have fun.
Want to talk more about what to do with your new graduates or how to plan if you are one? Join Dr. Wes on KCUR 89.3 at 11 a.m. Tuesday for Up to Date with Steve Kraske.