I don’t remember much about graduating. I remember it was hot. I remember that there were a lot of tears. I remember I got a wicked case of heat exhaustion after being out in the sun without enough sunscreen or fluids. (I’ve learned that being properly hydrated is the key to most things in life.) I remember talking with friends and celebrating at a cabin my family rented afterwards.
I remember missing a lot of people.
A lot of stock is placed in graduations. On a macro level of your life, they’re a pretty big deal. It’s really your first event as a legal adult. It’s the first time you realize you’re not going to see large swaths of people you had spent lots of time with in your formative years on a regular basis. It’s the first time you realize that things will change and you need to be prepared for them.
I guess what I didn’t know was that, at least in my case, things will work out how they are supposed to. Those events you think are life-ending, probably are not. And those unexpected challenges will test you, but not break you. The plan you lay out in your head is probably not the plan that you’re going to follow. Every path is different. And that’s OK.
I think the thing I wish high school talked about more was that being a kind, empathetic, thoughtful person is completely underrated. I think we have lots of smart people, lots of nice people, but not a lot of kind people in this world. I can think of a handful of people who I’ve looked up to who are kind people: I don’t regret any time I spent with them. You can be a kind and smart person. You can be a tough and a kind person. Kindness does not have to be a mutually exclusive characteristic.
One of the biggest keys to success, at least what I believe, is the ability to manage the day-to-day ups and downs of life. There are so many times in my day where I feel like my ship is either going to crash or it’s smooth sailing. It’s just important to remain at the wheel. Don’t let the little parts of life get you off course. I think most stressful parts of life can be overcome with a deep breath.
One thing I do regret is that I don’t get to see some of my classmates to reflect on what a weird, wonderful experience Conserve School was. I have yet to meet another person who had something similar.
As a culture, we put a lot of stock in graduation. We think it’s THE turning point in our lives. We think we need to do something drastic in order to make it memorable. While it does change your life, I don’t think it’s as big as we make it out to be. I’ve found that the bigger changes in my life have come from quieter moments when I least expected them.