To the High School Graduates in my Life

Congratulations!


I’m proud of you. It never occurred to me that you would not graduate.


I decided to write you a letter, a letter I wish someone had written me all those years ago when I graduated from high school.


Life is full of good! Get all you can as often and for as long as you can. You can do this without being irrationally selfish; I agree with Dr. Wayne Dyer and his call for being rationally selfish. Savor. Share. Thank often. And, yes, there is the unpleasant, sad, bad in life. But, based on my experience, all the unpleasant, sad, and bad cannot be avoided. Just be governed by a promise found in religions practiced by millions around the world: treat individuals as you wish to be treated.


Morals matter. Nobody is perfect, but all of us can work toward perfection. What we do today may indeed matter fifty years from now, possibly much earlier, much longer. There are many people who will agree with me. So much of what we do cannot be undone; apologies won’t erase everything despite our sincerity. One thoughtless action ought not define us, but sometimes it does.


You’ll find that a lot of the cliches are true. I want you to know that they are true for a reason; repeatedly, all over the world, people have seen and do see proof. What is not a cliché and should be is this: think critically. Some proverbs must be, and ought to be qualified. For instance, when we know better, we do better. Not necessarily. For when we know better, we OUGHT to do better.


The physical aspect of life may be the best place to begin simply because it may be the easiest to practice. Eat well. Exercise. Take care of your health. It is easier to stay healthy than it is to work your way back to good health. Select an exercise, sport; do it regularly. You do not have to be good at it, but like it. Do it regularly to get the greatest benefits, one of which is feeling good.


Feeling good can lead to perfecting the mental aspect of your life. Academic, yes. You have had a taste of education: maybe kindergarten, definitely elementary, middle and high school. Never underestimate your ability. Delve into your interests. A certificated program? A four-year degree? I am partial to the community colleges—you get a chance to explore without losing ground. Many persons don’t know what they want to do, where they want to go, what they want to be when they finish high school.


Being scattered here can spill into the emotional aspect of life, another part of the mental side of life. Understand who you are, what’s important. Give yourself time to get a life partner if you choose. A partner should enhance your life. You’re still growing! Know who you are, what you want before you select someone. Avoid trying to be what he/she wants you to be. Most of us want to please, but sometimes pleasing costs too much. Changing for someone else rarely sticks; change for yourself—if you choose. Take time. Read, travel. Connect. Keep a journal! List statements your mom, dad, grandparents, teachers, persons whose comments you value said often. The comments may have different meanings as you mature. Chances are you’ll discard some of what you learned, make discoveries of what you never imagined, and reaffirm some of what you long believed.


Not forgotten nor ignored is the financial aspect of life. Remember: money is not the root of evil; love of money is the root of evil. Always take care of yourself. Too many persons, women especially, have tolerated horrible abuse so that they can regularly receive the basics or continue to live in the fashion to which they have become accustomed or want to live. Save a minimum of 10% of your income EVERY MONTH. Devote time to becoming financially literate—the sooner, the better. Saving is good discipline, but do not save so much that you yourself live in poverty. You deserve the best, especially after working for it. Consider being an entrepreneur.


Finally, never forget the spiritual aspect of life. Spiritual development is essential if you are to be a healthy individual. For me, the spiritual permeates everything despite my not always seeing it, especially not seeing it immediately. As a result, I always attempt to make connections. Connecting makes it easier for me to negotiate the twists and turns in life. Try to put yourself in the minds of others if only for a little while. Our views, where we stand can make such a difference in perception. I think all of us have a perch from which we see the world. But I know we do not have the same perch: low, high, in-between, large, medium, small. However, our perches are always miniscule. We must work to get better views and then do our best to help others do the same.


I have done some of what I want to do in this piece. I hope it helps. I hope you have a long, fruitful, enjoyable life.


~Georgia S. McDade


Georgia S. McDade, a charter member of the African American Writers’ Alliance, began reading her stories in public in 1991 and credits the group with making her write poetry. Georgia writes for South Seattle Emerald and Leschinews. She does interviews for KVRU (105.7) and KBCS (107.3). Outside the Cave is the name of four volumes of poetry; Observation and Revelations: Stories, Sketches, and Essays is the name of her volume of prose.