Day By Day: Graduation - Things I’ve learned since high school and collegeThis time of year is a mixed bag. The downside is that it begins a season of working weekends with grass to cut, weeds to pull and guilt to endure if you don’t do either. On the upside, especially if you are a senior somewhere — high school or college not the AARP kind — is your future is about to start or at least move into a new phase.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
This time of year is a mixed bag.
The downside is that it begins a season of working weekends with grass to cut, weeds to pull and guilt to endure if you don’t do either.
On the upside, especially if you are a senior somewhere — high school or college not the AARP kind — is your future is about to start or at least move into a new phase.
I graduated from high school 40 years ago and it may be one of the few things I remember with some clarity. I was one of two salutatorians from my boarding school class of 22. At that size, it really isn’t a big deal and even less so when you know that several of the nuns who taught me didn’t want to give me the honor because of my “attitude.” I was at the meeting where they very freely discussed their objections but I can’t really say that I understood what my attitude issues were. It wouldn’t be the last time I “just didn’t get it.”
Those of us who graduated in 1970 have some things in common with the 2010 bunch. Vietnam was still going on and no one was certain how long it would last. The shootings at Kent State had just happened. That shook everybody up, even my dad who had so many kids and was working so hard on our farm that he barely had time to notice what we were doing. I remember being in the kitchen with him that Friday morning and we listened to the story about the shooting on WCCO radio. I remember being shocked. All dad said was, “You’ll be in college soon too, won’t you?” and he got up and left the table.
I don’t really have an idea about how graduates are feeling about the current wars we’re fighting. One of the graduates I interviewed for this week’s graduation story is headed off to the Marines in August. She says she believes in the efforts being made in Afghanistan and Iraq and her government wouldn’t send her there if it wasn’t a just cause. I may think she is naïve but I also marvel at her courage and envy her conviction. I had none of that at her age, well, except the naïve thing.
But as she pushes bravely forward, I am looking back and willing to share a few of the things I’ve learned over the past 40 years — mostly in hopes that some of you out there are much quicker learners.
I think if I could do it over again, I would take a stern inventory of my personality and character traits during those weeks and months immediately following graduation. The idea would be to pull a “Serenity Prayer” makeover on myself — change the things I could, accept the things I couldn’t and be wise enough to know the difference.
First up with me would be to stop worrying. Over the years I spent a lot of time with a knot in my stomach and sleepless nights all down to worrying and regretting something I had done or failed to do or just plain screwed up. I could make myself sick thinking about a bad review at work or a fight with my mom or a friend or my long-suffering husband.
But when I was 36, having just had our twins, I was on a walk with them and my amazing Aunt Mernie. She had had her share of hard times and heartbreak but she was one of those people who was easy to love ‘cause she always loved you back. I must have been crabbing about some worry over our premature babies or the fact that Kevin had just lost his job or god knows what when she stopped at the corner of Fourth and Churchill streets in Stillwater and told me this truth.
“Meg, if worrying made a difference, it might be worth it. But since it never, ever seems to change a thing, it really is a very big waste of time so stop it.”
I can’t say I took her advice immediately but over time it sank in and, while I still catch myself worrying about things, I don’t stay at it for long. It just isn’t a good use of my time — nor of yours.
I’m a terminal procrastinator. I was born that way. And for years I would beat up on myself about it. For the days and weeks before a paper was due or a project needed to get done, I would wake up in the morning and be determined to get at it and then I wouldn’t and I would do all kinds of things to avoid the real task. I went through a time management class at a job I once had and they pinpointed my problem — I majored in the minors — always doing “B and C tasks” in an effort to avoid the big “A” ones in an effort to make me feel less guilty.
I don’t know exactly when I changed my attitude but I think it was about 20 years ago when I started to work at the newspaper. I should have had a job with strict, regular deadlines years ago. I still procrastinate — the difference these days is I don’t obsess about what I’m NOT doing. I generally meet deadlines and have learned just about how much time I need to get something done. In the meantime, there are things I’d rather be doing and that ain’t bad.
And I would of course be remiss if I didn’t mention healthy living. You’ve all heard my weight woes over the years but the truth is 50 comes pretty fast and I wish I had made exercise a little more of a priority in my younger days. My little plan of losing my age in weight every birthday has been a doomed effort for the most part. Imagine if I had lost 30 pounds when I was 30. Now I’m just hoping to get to the weight on my driver’s license before the cops bust me for lying.
The truth is that I finally get that it isn’t about a diet or a certain size or whatever inner demons Oprah says I need to identify. It’s about eating healthy and staying active and that’s another of those lessons that while learned better late than never, really shouldn’t be all that tough to do for all you very smart and connected kids out there.
So congratulations all you graduates, including my nephew Joe and our friend Josh and my son’s friend Melly — all amazing young people with their whole lives ahead of them. And I’m pretty sure, they are already smarter than I was back in 1970 but just in case – note above.