In a day that traditionally brings smiles and tears, hope and anxiety, Indian River High School graduated the Class of 2017 last week.
It is a graduating class that sees approximately 84 percent of its graduates heading to post-secondary schools, including 122 students attending Delaware and Delmarva schools. It was also an opportunity for the seniors to remember Trevor Kramer, a classmate who had succumbed to brain cancer in 2016.
“He had a huge heart,” said David Clark, the class president, “and the one thing he taught me before he left us is that we can never ever give up. ... Let’s never stop going after what we want. We will never settle.”
So, yes, this is indeed a graduating class that should generate a lot of pride throughout our entire community, and particularly for those who guided these students from preschool up to the time they tossed their mortarboards into the air. Parents, teachers, siblings, mentors, friends, relatives and neighbors can all have a hand in helping a young person advance from learning to take his or her first steps to graduating high school and embarking on that first real step into adulthood. Ah, adulthood.
New graduates, let’s talk.
I know you’ve been waiting for what seems like a very long time to finally be treated as an adult. You’re tired of being questioned all the time. You want to set your own schedule, do your own thing and embark on your own voyages in life. You know everything you’ve needed to know for years now, and it’s absolutely liberating to know that you are leaving behind the shackles of high school and living under your parents’ roof, and you are ready to tackle adulthood and bring this world to its knees.
Man, I remember that feeling to this day, and that was 30 years ago this week. I was lean, hair feathered in a way that ’80s hair tended to be, and ready to “Walk Like an Egyptian” right into adulthood.
Adulthood, by the way, stinks. Like, a lot. There are bills to pay, dishes to wash, things to be accountable for at all times and work. Work is hard, graduates. It honestly doesn’t matter what you decide to do for a living, if you try your hardest, work is hard.
Oh, there are some advantages. It is now your life. You have a clean slate ahead of you, and you can do with that slate whatever you put your mind to doing with it. The world is your oyster, and it’s all up to you how you do with it.
As a public service, I’m going to go through a few things with you about adulthood that you might not already know, or know, but don’t fully appreciate yet. Consider it my graduation present to you (I’m cheap. It’s all you’re getting from me). Ready?
• Remember when I told you work is hard? It really is, if you care enough to try to do it right. Here’s where my advice comes on this topic: Try to do it right. Personal satisfaction from a good day’s work is truly invaluable — if you are a doctor, carpenter, farmer, fast-food worker, homemaker, journalist, sanitation worker or entertainer. It doesn’t matter what you get into for a living, the pride of doing something right is a feeling that can’t be replaced. Have you ever cut your grass or cleaned a filthy room and sat back and just looked at the finished product? It feels good, right? Try to carry that feeling with you every single day.
• On that same topic, working hard and listening to your bosses gives you a better chance of keeping your job and possibly advancing to an even better one. Those paychecks come in handy.
• You know how excited you are right now to celebrate with your friends and enjoy every minute you have with them? That’s awesome, and it’s important that you always stay loyal and honest with your friends. But hug your parents. Hang out with your siblings. Your family is always going to be your family. You are going to grow apart from more of your classmates than you realize, either geographically or because of the demands of life. Family stays, if you’re fortunate.
• You’ve heard all this before, but it really is important. Think of the consequences of your actions. Drinking and driving doesn’t only put you at risk of getting into trouble with the law (and puts your job at jeopardy), you can die. Literally, die. Or you could kill another person who didn’t do anything wrong. That is not something you want hanging over your head the rest of your life. Get a cab or an Uber, or designate a driver. It’s not worth it.
• There is nothing “recreational” about doing heroin. Again, you’ve heard this. Again, it’s important. If you’re hanging out with friends and one says, “Hey, let’s do some heroin,” get different friends. Don’t even try it. That “one time” could very well be your last moment on Earth.
• Don’t be afraid. It’s a scary world out there, and there’s no denying it, but it’s an amazing world, as well. I can’t even begin to list the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met since leaving high school. Eat it all up, every chance you get.
• Life is going to get tough. It doesn’t matter if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck or in a mansion on the water, it will get really, really tough sometimes. Suck it up and do what you know is the right thing. You’ll get through it, or you won’t. But never quit.
• Rejoice. You just hit an important milestone in life, and you have more ahead of you. Life is exciting right now, and it should be. Pat yourself on the back and gear up for what’s next.