Be safe, be full, live well

Graduates, you achieved your task; you completed the requirements of one phase of your life. Now, you must move into the next phase — how will you go about it?

The Harvard College admissions office uses set questions as its staff reviews student applications. You may not want to go to Harvard; you may want to major in auto-mechanics at Hudson Valley Community College. Your immediate choice doesn’t matter for this purpose; use these questions as guidelines for yourselves as you evaluate your past and attempt to form your future:

Why not Harvard? Why not you?

Be figurative for a minute here. We all know by now who is going to Harvard and who isn’t, but that isn’t the current exercise. Harvard is a symbol of the top, the pinnacle, the smartest and “bestest.” You, graduate, are an amazing person. You have grown and learned, tried and failed, tried and succeeded, and accomplished your goal of graduation. Don’t sell yourself short, ever. Be confident, and, if necessary, step up to a challenge. In your endeavors, always ask, why not you?;

Do you have a direction yet? If not, are you exploring many things?

Some of your classmates walked at 10 months old. Some of you didn’t take a step until you were almost 2. You’re all walking, or ambulating in some way, now. You’re mobile. You did it on your own, and you did it in your own time after exploring ways that worked for you: down on all fours, a monkey crawl or scoot, or in new wheels.

It’s OK to have a direction now, and it’s OK to take your time and explore. It’s OK for Harvard, and it’s OK for you. No worries. You’ll find your way;

Where will you be in one, five, or 25 years? Will you contribute something to those around you?

Many of you know where you’ll be in a year. Many of you think you know where you’ll be in 25 years — practicing law or medicine, teaching in your alma mater, or running your own construction business. Maybe. But, the kicker is that, every five years, life is different. Jobs change, people are born and people die, and perspectives become altered by experience and circumstance.

Have your short- and long-term plans, or you won’t accomplish anything, but be flexible. As the time passes, consider what you can contribute to those around you. Use your opportunities and talents to seek or create richness and fullness in your lives, but always work to add richness and fullness to the lives of others. Helping others to live well will benefit us all;

What sort of human being are you now? What sort of human being will you be in the future?

Your parents think you’re great. You may think so, too. If you don’t, why don’t you? Can you make choices to become great? You can.

You can turn yourself around with better behavior or study habits, or you can accept yourself for the unique person you are, or you can seek medical help, depending on your issues — and, you’re still teenagers, so it’s OK to have issues.

You all have issues! Your parents know this, and your new professors and employers know this. Your brains and your bodies will not be finished growing for another seven years, so do what you can to grow into the sort of human being you want to be in the future.

While you’re growing, take a step back and refer to the age-of-mobility example above. Don’t be in a hurry to get experiences “out of the way,” if you haven’t, already — your first beer, first joint, first hit, or first sex. These are not experiences everyone has, and they are not experiences to worry about.

Instead, do things at your own pace, with your own safety in the forefront of your mind, as you did when learning to walk. This discussion leads us to the next question;

What about your maturity, character, self-confidence, warmth of personality and concern for others?

As you go into the adult world, keep each other safe.

One in five women will be sexually assaulted while they are in college. Some studies suggest the number is closer to one in four. Think of the girls in your English class: now think that 25 percent of them will face sexual assault.

Young men also face assault in college — they walk alone across dark campuses at 2 a.m., they drink too much, and they drink in the wrong places.

Now, think about what you can do to stay safe, and to keep others safe.

Ladies, walk together, or call security escorts, every time. Choose your party mates wisely. Open, and serve, your own fresh drinks and hold them properly, with your palm covering the top. If you need to put down your drink, get a new, unopened drink later rather than picking up the old one.

Men, watch out for your friends, male and female. Teach your friends how to cover their drinks, and stick close to each other. Walk together, or call security escorts, every time. Sound familiar? Schools employ security escorts, and accept volunteers for escort services, for a reason. Don’t be afraid to use them; the staff wants to be used, that’s why they’re there.

Self-confidence is a lovely attribute, but be confident enough to take precautions for yourself and for your friends.

The Harvard admissions office shares a final thought;

Of course, no process is perfect.

You already knew that, right? Life isn’t perfect, but it can be pretty good. You may get another kind of first at college — your first bad grade. You may not get the campus job you hoped for and, instead, be stuck scraping dishes. You may not get the internship you needed for your big break, and you may graduate from college without a job in the wings.

You may be dumped, humiliated, or assaulted in the years to come. What will you do?

Take a deep breath, and keep on going.

Go back to class, scrape the dishes, seek healing, and, if necessary, justice. Day to day, step by step, life isn’t perfect, but it goes on. You’ll make it.

You survived high school, and you navigated the emotional roller coaster of growing up. You’ll get through every next phase, if you only hang on. If you can hang on while contributing to those around you with character, warmth of personality, and grace, the world will be a better place.
Life is going to get a lot more interesting in the next few years. Your life won’t be perfect, but it will be all right, because you’re amazing — you can do it. Go live.

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