She Said, He Said: Advice for the Graduating Class of 2017

The following is the seventh entry in “She Said, He Said,” a new series of articles seeking to compare and contrast the various views, political, social or otherwise, of Millennials in today’s world. Elizabeth Lane is a 2016 Carson-Newman University graduate with a BA in Creative Writing, and has worked at the Jefferson County Post as a journalist and feature writer since shortly before her graduation. Jake Depew is a 2014 Carson-Newman University graduate with a BS in Philosophy. He is the assistant editor and a columnist for the Jefferson County Post, and is the Editor for the Gatlinburg Daily Post.

This article’s question: “With High School Graduation quickly approaching, what advice can you give the graduating class of 2017?“

Elizabeth Lane

Elizabeth Lane

She Said…

Summer is around the corner, and with it comes graduation season for many in the area. This time of the year also evokes excitement and nostalgia; before our eyes several years of education and hard work finally come to their pinnacle. Many proud parents will shed tears watching their children walk across the stage for their much-deserved diploma. However, like all things, high school must end and the work of the real world begins.

I have been tasked this week at giving advice to upcoming high school graduates. I would like to start out with the disclaimer that I am no expert and everyone’s experience beyond high school is different. I guess the first thing I want to say is to not be afraid to be upfront about the real world with yourself. High school may have been a cake walk, or may possibly have been the worst four years you may have ever had to endure, but life outside those walls is unfair and challenging for everyone. Luckily, life is also full of joy and fulfillment, if you remain open to the experience.

Suddenly, you must walk on your own and make choices that will have effects and possibly set the course of action for the rest of your life. When I say this please don’t think that I am telling you to fear what the world will do. I am simply telling you to be prepared and take all of the good opportunities that are offered. If that means doing something outside of your comfort zone on a college campus or having the courage to go and ask for a raise, then I am telling you to do it.

All you can do in both of those hypothetical situations is learn and grow. Do not be afraid to fail. Help other people generously, and do not be so caught up in yourself that you don’t have time to stop and see the world around you. If you are focused on yourself and only consumed by what is going on in your tiny world you are asking for a limited view with horrible seating.

You don’t have to magically have it all figured out by a certain time. In fact, you probably won’t have much of anything figured out. Take each day, throughout the process of figuring out your place in life, with all that you can. You never know where you might end up.

Another thing that I think is important for you to remember is to take care of you, whatever that means to you, personally. Take a moment and see if everything is alright. Step away from situations and people that you think might be harmful. Listen to your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Take the mental health day. When stressed or overwhelmed (and you will be) take time to do things that you enjoy and love.

My final pieces of advice are simple. Whatever you end up doing, make sure that you love it with all of your heart and work at it with all that you have. Take time to learn to balance a check book and change the flat tire yourself – you will thank yourself for that one later. Enjoy the new experiences that are coming your way and cherish each moment. Good luck, class of 2017!

Jake Depew

Jake Depew

He Said…

I’ve been asked to share some advice with graduating high schoolers, since the end of their school year is almost upon us. I’ll jump right into it. You kids have just finished high school, and for many of you it was a grind that seemed to never end, filled with arguments, drama, homework, and deadlines. You’re looking forward to the real world because you’re free. You can finally step outside of the little boxed-in existence of school and be the you that has been stifled for so long. You finally figured it all out, whatever it all is, those last few months, and now it is time for you to be real. Spoiler Alert!

Life doesn’t get any easier.

Ok, I’m just joking. I mean, life doesn’t get any easier, but it has the perk of being way, way more fun. For the first time in your life, whether you are in college or working, your decisions matter. You could screw up before, but now it is on your head if you do. But that’s the beautiful thing: if you succeed, the success is yours. It sounds bittersweet, but I assure you that real life is pretty great. Sure, real life has just as many problems as school life. Luckily, you’ll learn to handle it far better than you did at 16. I wanted this advice to come first because it is fundamental to your experience going forward. Don’t expect a fairy tale, but understand that your life can be even better, if you so choose. More on that in a moment.

Advice #2: Learn. Always keep learning. College and trade school is great for knowledge, but work to retain and use what you learn. Read, even if you think you don’t like it. Pick a skill and decide to acquire it, then move on to another when you are done. Learn life skills like basic financing, elementary programming, or how to fix simple problems with your car. Never stop learning, because that’s when you stop growing.

My next advice is to make friends, but to do so intelligently. Have a friend in every activity and class you have. Don’t just use these people for notes, ect., but actually communicate with them. And not every friend has to hang with your other friends. There’s a lot to be said for having different groups available to run around with. I know several people who have lost their entire group of friends because everyone ran around together. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but don’t treat them like backups, either. Respect your body and never do anything to it that you can’t take back. My last advice is more of a worldview I want you to consider, because it might save your sanity. This is the most important thing I can say to you: realize how innately interesting life can be.

That sounds like I’m saying that obnoxious, “imagine an obstacle as a fun challenge!” platitude. I’m not. Most problems aren’t remotely capable of being fun. But they are absolutely important. Death and illness round out the top of life’s screwed up scenarios, but there are millions of other problems, sometimes little things, that bother us. By all means, take the big problems, the ones that you can’t come back from, seriously. But for everything else, ranging from a missed job opportunity to missing your exit on the interstate, laugh. Sometimes – a lot of times – you just have to laugh at the poetry of it all, and you aren’t always laughing because it’s funny. Imagine a movie where the hero really likes their life. Luke Skywalker never had to deal with those droids the Empire was looking for. The Dursleys treat Harry Potter like he’s one of their own children. Sauron decided, eh, maybe he didn’t need One Ring to Rule Them All. They’re fairy tales.

Who would ever want to see that movie?

Enjoy the show.

Source: Elizabeth Lane, Jefferson County Post Staff Writer; Jake Depew, Assistant Editor

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