It’s graduation season, and in the next six weeks, thousands of Valley’s young adults are launching into a new chapter of life, making decisions on big questions that could affect them forever. So many times, we have said, “If only I knew then what I know now.” Well here is a chance to peer into the wisdom of people who have taken many roads in life — and what they would tell their young selves in a message from the future.
Let heart, spirit run show
Fearlessly be yourself at all times. Protect your positive energy and thinking from negative people who are. And when you find joy, do more of the things that bring it.
Other peoples’ opinions of you is none of your business. People are attracted to you for help and advice — learn early that you are in a position to help them.
Never miss a local story.
Always believe that everything will work out to your highest good. It will. Love with all your heart.
Seek ways to delight people – small surprises; compliments; random acts of kindness. It’s through giving, and delighting others, that your heart sings and your soul connects to God and the universe.
Show gratitude. Disappointment happens when the ego tries to run the show. In fact, ego tells you all kinds of lies that impact your joy (“You’re too tall; old, etc.,” “Who do you think you are?”) Send ego away and let your heart and spirit run the show. You’ll have all the joy you can handle.
I love you. I didn’t say it enough back then. Or in my 20s or 30s, but you need to know it.
Still living, coping
I awoke and looked through my window. I saw a brilliant, sunshiny, spring day. My doves, sparrows and bluebirds peered down at me from their high perches on overhead wires and trees waiting for me to fill their feeders. They were already singing their various melodious and cheerful songs as an expression of joy to their glorious surroundings.
Endless flowers of every color and shape were also waiting for my visit to their gardens, along roadways, in shopping centers and around buildings.
I know they anticipate my arrival because I stop and smell the roses while I go about my daily occupations.
My father once made an offhand remark which I have valued throughout my entire life. He told me, “People have to live a whole lifetime to know how to live a life.” Another time while I was standing alone on a street corner, I reflected upon what I would be doing when I grew up.
I wonder if my personal recommendations to an 18-year-old on how to live a happy and productive life in our rapidly changing world would be happily received today since I am still living, learning and coping myself.
Learn from everyone
If hindsight is 20/20, then I would encourage you to choose a multifaceted path as you enter college.
Your goal should be a balanced education, one that builds moral as well as intellectual growth. If you major in, say, computer science or accounting, take courses in art, music appreciation and English literature.
Knowing Rafael from Rembrandt, Bach from Brahms, and Dickens from Dostoevsky may not make you rich, but you will become enriched.
Take risks. Build on your strengths while simultaneously transcending your weaknesses.
For example, even if the physical sciences are difficult, take biology and physics classes to learn more about the consequential discoveries of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.
Immerse yourself in all facets of college life. Attend concerts, plays, sporting events, lectures by visiting dignitaries. Join an organization that gives back to the community.
Book learning is only one aspect of life’s intellectual journey. Reach out to students from other backgrounds and cultures.
You can learn something from everyone.
Emerson said it best; “In every man, there is something wherein I can learn from him, and in that, I am his pupil.”
May you embrace this new chapter in life.
GARY WAYNE WALKER
Assess each action, word
Assess your choice of actions and words by what you think they will accomplish rather than by how you feel at the moment. What do you really want to happen and what are the likely outcomes of the thoughts, words and actions that you are about to choose?
Whether they are true or not, will your angry or accusing thoughts or words have more good effects than harmful ones?
Will insisting when you are right do more good or more harm in this particular situation?
We all mold our own lives, even as we are molded by them.
Think about what you want for your life, where you want to take it and it to take you.
Think about what kind of person you want to be.
Think about whether each thought, word, and deed takes you toward or away from where you want to go and who you want to be.
And then let that assessment help guide your actions.
Gin > vodka
You can’t pull off Winona Ryder’s haircut in “Reality Bites,” so stop it. Ditto dark lipstick.
Learn Italian while you’re in college, because it’s much harder when you’re middle-aged. Get your passport now and save your future self some hassle.
Spend less time worried about body hair. Related: If a dude expresses an opinion about your body hair, stop talking to him immediately.
Keep your overalls; you’ll want to wear those again when you stop caring how you look to strangers.
Marriage and kids aren’t for you. I’m just confirming what you already sort of know.
Freelancing is not worth the headache in taxes. Credit cards are not your friend.
Eat more protein and fiber. It will save you a lot of feeling hella awful in the future.
Don’t be scared of avocados. Or butter.
Gin > vodka.
There’s no such thing as a “slut,” so stop using that word.
People are mostly focused on their own problems and are not actively trying to ruin your life, so stop being mad. Especially when you’re driving.
Finally, you don’t know anything about anything, and you’ll know even less the older you get, so chill, dude. Seriously.
P.S. Don’t start saying “dude” or “hella,” because you’ll never be able to stop.
P.S.: You’re a lesbian
First, you’re not stupid. You’re going to be one of the most brilliant people you ever meet.
Right now, most folks don’t understand how you think because you’re more abstract to their concrete. Don’t fret. In your 20s, you’re going to learn about this thing called the Internet and code, launch websites and participate in the technological wave that changes society. You’re going to find your niche, culture and place.
You’re also going to lose it all to something called PTSD. Still, don’t fret. You’ll get it back again and have a far better understanding of humanity, the world and what life should really mean.
It’s a tough road, but worthy of walking. With a brain like yours, though, you have to pause and assess: is it a trail you’re blazing or are you running away again?
Here’s how you know: If you look back and see loved ones on the way up, you’re creating the right path. Those folks, even when you feel desperately alone, have got your back. Wait for them. If you see dust and crickets, go back and try again. Always go back and try again.
P.S. You’re a lesbian.
You’ll live with autism
I know you can’t stand learning about subjects “that don’t matter,” but more matters in this world than you think. So try to learn everything. And I mean everything.
There’s a reason you started crying for no reason in that community college ecology class. You’ll need art history later, when you’re talking to your sister about her self-portrait. And when you rolled your eyes in introduction to statistics? Well, you’re going to read about psychological studies to the moon, after you’re diagnosed with autism. So you might as well get smart.
While you’re smarting it up, though, don’t let the ideas of others drown you out. It’s OK to disagree.
Your future isn’t the textbook society wrote for you.
You’re going to break a couple of relationships, then the economy’s going to break itself over your head. Yet you’ll succeed.
You’ll publish writing.
You’ll find friends who fill the corners of your eyes with neon colors.
You’ll gain and lose weight, grow and cut hair, tear the hems off your too-long pants — before you’ll wake up one day, and in the silver-blue morning of Fresno, you’ll feel “right” in your skin.
Kourtnie McKenzie, 29
The inside story counts
The biggest challenge you will ever have is yourself. Being honest with yourself about yourself may be the most frightening and rewarding thing you ever do. Nobody can do for you or to you what you can do for and to yourself. You are the best friend and worst enemy you will ever have.
You are defined by how you deal with what happens to you – not what happens.
If you so choose, you learn, grow and develop all of your life.
Life is good when you manage your problems: they’re always there.
It’s never too late to learn or make amends.
Every change, solution or advancement brings new problems: be prepared.
Gossip is cowardly and irresponsible. The gossiper says more about themselves than the person they talk about.
We choose our behaviors: they don’t happen to us.
None of us chooses our genetic endowment nor our parents’ parenting skills.
We are all blessed or damned by chance.
The jerks among us may be the less fortunate among us. Every offender was a victim first.
Someone’s race, religion, appearance, gender, or sexual preference is only the wrapping, saying nothing about what they consist of inside.
Don’t eat the brownies
I think a bulleted list is the best way to communicate with your short attention span:
• Have faith.
• Cosmetology school is a bad idea, but go anyway. You’ll meet your best friend.
• Don’t part ways with your roommates.
• Don’t eat the brownies.
• Always, always be honest. Even when it’s scary.
• Travel as much as possible.
• Appreciate your parents; they love you more than you understand.
• Listen to your mom when she tells you to color in your eyebrows. She’s right.
• Pray. A lot. It will bring you peace, comfort and guidance in every area of your life.
• Try not to worry about your brother, he will be one amazing man.
• Dating someone you meet in recovery is not a good idea.
• Spend more time with your grandmother. Learn to be sassy just like her. You’ll miss her more than you realize.
• Seriously, don’t eat the brownies.
• Go back to college.
• Sometimes life is rough.
• When you meet that funny guy, with those baby blues, get ready for the time of your life.
• Make yourself happy, and love your family. Nothing else matters.
• OK, fine, eat one brownie.
Beware the Bs, they sting
The life you’ve planned for yourself in your head is not the one that you will end up living. And that’s OK. I promise. The left turn you took, that ended up in Fresno, is just what you needed. Just remember the following…
• Watch out for Bs — they sting. Boyfriends, besties and bosses will hurt you like no other. Many will cheat, lie and bring you down. Learn to turn the other cheek, and never let go of the good ones.
• Your children will teach you life lessons that you will never learn anyplace else. Whether it’s watching your oldest sing in a preschool holiday pageant or holding your baby at 4 a.m. after he underwent massive surgery, these little people will change you for the better. Just go with it.
• Working in a big, fancy building in San Francisco will not define you or your career. You will pave your own way, and it will be more satisfying than you ever thought possible.
• You’ll grow up. Your priorities will absolutely change. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.
And above all else, have fun! Life is too short to do anything else.
Focus on your ambitions
You are now 18 years old, having had a birthday near the end of September. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time you made plans for what you wish to accomplish in life.
I know you aspire for a career as a teacher because I’ve heard you mention that fact on several occasions. It’s now time for you to choose a college. May I suggest East Central State Teacher’s College in Ada, Oklahoma. They have an excellent teacher training program.
I predict you will have setbacks as you study to achieve your goals. If — and when — they happen, just keep your mind on your ambitions. Strive to accomplish them, no matter how long it takes.
When you become a teacher, don’t forget to thank the ones who assisted you along the way. First, remember your parents who have encouraged you to get the best education you can.
If you marry before realizing your dreams, be sure to thank your wife. She will, no doubt, have to put up with a hectic schedule and late-night studying.
Last, be sure to thank your teachers. They will be pouring their lives into their students.
May all your dreams come true.
Loran Hugh Parker
He isn’t good for you
Break up with that boy right now, not after you’ve been together over a year. He isn’t good for you and you know it. Any boy who tries to control you isn’t a boy you want to be with.
Life will get better, I promise. You’ll get out of your hometown and you won’t feel so stuck anymore.
There will be good times and bad times. The bad times will sometimes feel overwhelming, and you’re going to need to seek help. That’s OK; it’ll only make you stronger.
Don’t worry about what everyone else in your graduating class is doing. It’s going to take you a couple of more years to finish school. Everyone does things at their own pace and in their own way.
College is full of learning experiences, both in the classroom and out of it. Remember that and you’ll be all right.
P.S. Please stop using spelling “is” as “iz” when you’re texting or updating your Facebook. Five years down the road, it’ll seriously hurt to look back on those statuses.
Learn all about Grandma
Pick up the phone and call Grandma. Tell her you are coming to visit because she needs to teach you how to make lye soap. Tell her you will be staying the night because it’s a three-hour drive both ways, so she should be thinking of chores you can do to “earn your keep.”
No, she won’t let you do anything, but she’ll brag about your offer until the day she dies. And it won’t be that far off. Do you really think your grandparents will be there more than another decade?
Don’t tell them about your busy life at college and your three part-time jobs. By the time your grandmother was 22, she had graduated from high school (quite the feat for anyone, let alone a girl in 1926), married, survived the Depression and buried her first-born. She is one of the smartest and strongest women you will know in your lifetime. Know more about her.
As for the lye soap, no, it’s not really a life skill you’ll need. Then again, my 78-year-old self may send me a letter begging to differ on that issue!
Missy Mckai Cartier