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An open letter to all new high school graduates


Congratulations on graduating from high school!

This is an exciting time for both you and your parents. It may officially be the end of your childhood, but it's the beginning of your adulthood. Without a doubt it's a time that is both exciting, but also a little frightening, too, if you want to be honest with yourself. You will soon be entering uncharted territory and those areas of life that you may have only dreamed about and watched others live.

Nobody has all the answers in life. So I can't provide you with advice that is going to ensure 100 percent that your future will end up amazing. But there are a lot of things you can do to help make it great, and that's what I'd like to focus on here. These are a few tips I'd like to offer you regarding the future, based on my own life experiences:

  • You get out of life what you put into it. My beloved grandfather taught me that and it's words that I've always lived by. If you put in minimal effort or do enough to just get by, then you will just get back the minimal and just get by. 
  • You can achieve what you put your mind to. This was a lesson my mother taught me as a child and I still believe. The only real limitations you have in life are those you place on yourself with self doubt. Believe you can achieve and you are half way there. Then put in a great effort to make it the rest of the way.
  • Understand that the world owes you nothing. Rather than stand around waiting for someone else to do for you and help you, always do more to help yourself. There is no entitlement. Earn what you have and you will always feel great, do better, and will help others along the way.
  • Go to college and earn a degree. Yes, there are people who will whine that they know someone who went to college and it didn't pay off, or that they have debt. Forget the excuses. The statistics are readily available. Those with a college degree earn far more on average over the course of their career than those who didn't go to college, and they also have a much lower unemployment rate. Plus, there are things you learn in college that you won't learn elsewhere. College typically pays off not only financially, but in the personal growth that you will experience from the time spent there. Even if you have to take out loans, take them and go to college. If you are not a college-minded person then opt for some vocational training. You can make a good living and have a wonderful career with vocational training. The bottom line is that you have to get educated/gain skills in an area so that you can be self sufficient.
  • Spend time out in nature on a regular basis. There is mounds of research demonstrating that being out in nature offers lots of benefits for both physical health and psychological. Whether you engage in hiking, surfing, kayaking, or something else it's important to spend time in nature. The less time in nature we as a people spend (moving away from our roots), the more depression that exists (and the use of anti-depressants). 
  • Avoid getting heavily mixed up with drugs and alcohol. Sure, you have heard this type of thing before. But I've seen drug and alcohol addiction destroy families. Nobody intends for it to happen. Have fun, but always keep it in check and don't underestimate the power overuse of these substances have.
  • Work on having a good attitude. Those with positive attitudes are going to have a better time in life than those without. I highly recommend reading "The Secret" and learning about using the Laws of Attraction, which focuses on positive thinking. Also, doing just 10 minutes of meditation per day has been scientifically proven to be beneficial on one's attitude and life.
  • Don't be afraid to try and start your own business. Sure, it can be scary, but it's also exciting and can be the best route you ever take in life. Everyone has skills to offer the world. You don't have to wait around for someone to offer you a good job. Be proactive and start your own business and make things happen. 
  • Forgive your parents. There's not a parent on this planet who has done everything perfect. Every person grows up with an idea of something their parents did wrong, even if they did the best they could. Let it go. Forgive them for the things you may feel were wrong. Forgive them for yourself, so you don't carry that anger and resentment around, and forgive them for them, too. Most parents do what they think is right at the time. Accept them for who they are, even if they wouldn't win the parent of the year award.
  • Know that if you ever get to a point in your life that you feel hopeless and helpless that there is always help. Whether you turn to your parents, a church, a support group, a shelter, or to nature, there is always help available. If you need it, find it, use it, and then go on to pay it forward to help someone else later.

As a a new high school graduate you may read these and not give it much thought. But my hope is that these are seeds that get planted and at some point if you need them they will come back to you. But if you only record one to memory I hope that it will be that you get out of life what you put into it. When it comes down to it, that's simply the best way to explain how life as an adult is going to be. Working hard will always get you where you want to go!

- Jacqueline Bodnar

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