My daughter is graduating from high school. The actual ceremony takes place in a few days, but the anticipation of the event has been going on for days and weeks and years.
After high school, the traditional path is to go to a good college with good loans so you can get a good job to pay off the good loans. Then, while you are paying off the loans, you will fall out of love with your job. You’ll have to keep it though because while your job covers student loans, rent and a car payment, you’ll have a high interest credit card to pay for that covers the groceries and all the things you need to buy to make yourself feel better.
I know it’s not like that for everyone, but there are some of you who know exactly what I’m talking about. When my daughter was born, I was caught in that cycle and it kept going for years. Today things are different and I want her and every other graduate to know that it can be different for them too.
10 Lessons of Less for High School Graduates
1. Only spend what you have.
Being broke in college or any where after high school is a rite of passage. You won’t be the only one scrounging for change to cover lunch. Credit cards will afford you more luxuries now, but if you want real freedom, wait. Everything is better when it’s paid for.
2. Say no to student loans.
A low-interest rate doesn’t make debt any more enjoyable. Once you have a student loan, it will be on your mind and list of monthly bills for what feels like an eternity. Look for grants and scholarships. Ask for help. Work. Choose a more affordable school. If you can get out of school with no loans, you have a shot at doing work you love.
3. Do what YOU want.
You have been going to school and getting good grades to please your parents or get into college. You’ve been taking classes that are required most of the time. Now it’s time to spread your wings and fly in your own direction. People won’t always agree with your choices, but if they love you now, they will love you and support your journey.
4. Don’t measure your success based on the end result.
Your success in college cannot be measured by your degree, but instead by all of the things that happen in between. The things you learn and the people you meet will contribute to your success. Your success in life will never be about what you own. Certificates of achievements or impressive resumes will never define your life. Let love, happiness, joy, connection and contribution be your markers.
5. Don’t be afraid to change direction.
If you change your mind about school, a relationship, a job or anything that is important to you, ask big questions and honor the answers. You’ll know when it’s time for a change. This isn’t the violin lessons your parents wouldn’t let you quit in third grade. This is your big, beautiful life.
6. You will make mistakes and survive failure.
You are not perfect, and thank goodness for that. You will let people down, fail miserably and make mistakes that you never thought possible. And you will be ok. Apologize. Forgive yourself. Learn from it. Ask for help. Stand back up.
7. You don’t have to be an expert to help someone.
You have knowledge, compassion and experience to be helpful today. You don’t have to wait until you have more school or work experience. You have something to offer right now. Offer it. It will change someone’s life.
8. Drama will only distract you from what’s most important.
Spend time with people who lift you up and then lift them right back. Know when to walk away from toxic relationships and dramatic situations. It’s not your job to fix everything.
9. Disconnect on a regular basis.
If you want to fully connect with new friends, develop your passions and truly experience the world, you have to recognize that text messages aren’t urgent. Facebook will survive without you. Your email can wait and there are always rainy weekends to catch up on your favorite TV shows. Shut everything down on a regular basis and go for a walk.
10. Live with less to discover what is most important to you.
When people tell you that you can be whatever you want to be, they forget to tell you that you can only be whatever you want to be when you have the freedom to choose that path. When you are saddled with debt, bad relationships, mile long to-do lists and rooms full of stuff, you are not free to choose. There is very little, if anything that you own right now that will matter to you in 20 years. Buy less. Spend less. Complain less. Worry less. Love more. Appreciate more. Experience More. Sleep more. Save more. Give more. Be more with less.
And a love note for mine …
Growing you up has been my greatest pleasure and honor and my most important work. We have done some amazing things together and visited beautiful places, but these little things will always be my favorite …
- Tucking you in and whispering, “you are my best girl.” and waiting for your reply, “you’re mine.”
- Watching you walk into your first day of school with an empty backpack that was bigger than your back.
- That time I made you spell your name with your body on the beach and that grumpy look on your face by the time we got to “Y”.
- Your hiccups that scare small children.
- Dancing with you at the wedding.
- When you picked Guinness as our dog because he was the puppy that hugged you first.
- Realizing that all of my worries about the kind of teenager you would become were silly.
- When you fell in love with dance.
- Walking together under the bubble umbrella laughing hysterically.
- The letters you wrote me on Mother’s day and other days that made me cry.
- The letters I wrote you that made you cry.
I know these are just the beginning of the memories and lessons we will share together, but I am ready to take a step back and watch your life unfold. As a mom who wants to help and protect and hold on tight, it will be my biggest change and challenge yet, but I trust you and want you to experience the world in your own way.
I am excited to see you discover opportunities and watch you make big decisions. I won’t always agree, but I will always love you. I will let you fall and fail, but I will help you pick up the pieces. When ever you need me, or a free lunch, just ask. I’ll be there.
I love you so very much,
P.S. You are my best girl.
If you would like to add words of wisdom and advice for graduates, please feel free to do that in the comment section below.