Two grandsons and a niece graduate from high school this week. All week, I've been trying to come up with some kind of wisdom to posit with these young people. Graduating high school is really a big thing, but the truth is that from my vantage point at 64, all I can see is that they are babes with only vague ideas about what they want to do next.
And I don't think it should be otherwise. I don't see how a young person of 17 or 18 can possible know what he or she wants to do with the rest of life. It seems crazy to me to ask a kid to not only keep going to school—i.e. college-- but also to choose a major which will lead to life work. So the fact that these kids have only loosely defined plans for the next year or so doesn't bother me.
I do think they need to go somewhere and do something. I just don't think school is necessarily that thing. A summer of work and some good times with friends is a great next step after high school. Then it depends on the kid what will come after that.
These three don't have a great deal in common except for the fact that each of them has been super engaged in sports during high school. As I was making their graduation cards, I realized that I was tapping into this sporting interest for images for the cards. Then early this morning when I was cutting, arranging, and pasting pictures of bicycles and skiing onto the cards, I had a flash that the athletic learning that took place during my teen years has been the most enduring skill set in my life.
I certainly learned concepts in Geometry and facts in Government and read classics in English class while in high school, but it was the skill set that I developed as a competitive swimmer that has been with me every step of the way into adulthood, middle age, and on into my twilight years.
I learned to roll out of bed and get to work early, even when my body was screaming for sleep. I learned to push through fatigue, exertion, breathlessness, disappointment, and pain for greater gain. I learned to cooperate, respect authority, and recognize my self-worth. I learned to win and lose. I learned to laugh, congratulate, and lean into hard work. I learned how it feels to come in last and to be first, second, or tenth. I learned how to be coached and how to mentor. And most of all I learned how to celebrate!
So graduates—August, Cody, and Sabrina—remember what you learned on the ski slope, the soccer field, the bike trail, the softball diamond, the yoga mat! Those were the lessons that are full of life! And celebrate this landmark accomplishment.