Posted by: speakoutservices | June 14, 2011

The “Wise” High School Graduate: Lessons Learned After Tossing the Cap

I just attended a high school commencement ceremony filled with young faces full of excitement for their future and sentiment surrounding their final moments together.   The valedictory address was delivered beautifully by a young woman who could probably run rings round me on an SAT exam (I can’t recall my noon meal let alone a quadratic equation, whatever that is.)  But throughout her speech, I chuckled several times when she repeatedly referred to her classmates as being “wise” women. 

Oh, how I thought I was “wise” 30 years ago when I collected a high school diploma!  But the emerging road map on my once fresh face makes me realize just how little my 18-year-old self really knew about life.  Here is a list of some truths I’ve learned simply by living long enough to enjoy arthritis:

  • The fears of “fitting in”, wearing the “right” clothes, and dating the “right” people completely dissolve in the real world outside of high school.  By middle age, you know who you are, what you want, and you simply don’t care what other people think of you – quite freeing.  Your clothing need not be designer, but does need elastic.
  • You realize the commencement encouragement to “follow your dreams” does not always equate to paying your bills or meeting your expectations.  Be happy just to write the book instead of creating the best seller.  Never give up, but adjust to reality.
  • “Changing the world” really means to do really important small things to change the life of the few people you will cross in your lifetime.   
  • “Planning for your future” is all fine and good, until you get the game changer you never anticipated.  Ask anybody facing cancer, a stock market crash, or a pink slip from GM, if that was in their blueprint.  Make peace (over time) with life’s curve balls and accept a new path.
  • Relationships are not flowers, candy, and hot Vampires you meet in high school.  The romance part quickly fades after roses get replaced with diapers.  Relationships are about honesty, trust, communication, and a ton of negotiation when you have the same argument over 25 years.  You end up with a companion on life’s journey who feeds you chocolate only if you drop huge hints on your anniversary.
  • Life’s stresses are always more manageable if you have a friend, support group, or therapist in your life at the right time.  Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.  It takes more courage to face your pain with assistance than it does to deny it, run from it, or “handle it” alone.

Thirty years from now an accomplished, successful  middle age woman will pull out her commencement speech and grin – knowing she is finally as “wise” as her teenage self thought she was.



  1. Loved this one!!

  2. Haha I love this!

    I always hear this sort of stuff from people who graduated from high school and have met the real world. It’s always about how high schoolers seem so hopeful but they don’t expect the life ahead of them.

    I have quite a bit to look forward to once I graduate high school huh?

    • Yes, it may not be the ideal that you imagine in youth, but I think wisdom brings about greater peace and satisfaction in the long run. Youth gives you the drive and hope, middle age gives perspective and contentment. So it is all good 🙂 We need the stage of life where we think we can re-arrange the stars, because otherwise, we would never try. And I do not want to knock that there are people who accomplish the momumental things – or the lucky things, like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. But many of us have rock star dreams that never transpire. You can spend your life bitter about it, or you can appreciate what you HAVE accomplished, and see it as enough.

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