Dear Class of 2014: Here you are. At the end of one journey, about to begin another. I know the feelings going through you right now. Sadness to be leaving friends, fear of the unknown, excitement over what’s to come. You stand at this spot looking at what might be four years of college ahead, perhaps a technical school, maybe you’ve decided to launch right into a career.
Wherever you stand right now and whatever it is that you’re looking at, may I suggest a few things first?
Get out of Lodi
The News-Sentinel has even suggested this one before in a past editorial, and it’s not a slam to the community you grew up in. As a matter of fact, I’m quite proud that I grew up in livable, lovable Lodi and it has been a part of my identity in everything I’ve done since. But Lodi has a way of building a comfortable, warm cocoon around anyone. It’s a place that changes year to year but somehow manages to stay the same. You owe it to yourself to experience other places, get to know a different culture; be uncomfortable for once!
The world is a big place and there are so many new people to meet. You are selling yourself short if you don’t spend a little time elsewhere. Don’t worry, you’ll always be able to come back home.
Who are you?
In high school it’s easy to get lost in the crowd or think you know who your friends are, and ultimately, who you are. But following this four-year tenure, the most amazing thing happens. Friends move on, people change and so do you. The good news is that you make new friends, get to know other people and you start to discover your inner voice.
What are you interested in? What are your talents? What is it you believe in and are willing to commit to? Do you know your purpose in life, or are you still searching?
Don’t worry about that last one. Sometimes it takes a while to clearly see it, but when you hammer out the ones before it, your purpose becomes easier to understand.
As I just mentioned, unless you’ve known from childhood what it is you’re here to do and be, it does take time. The important thing is to not allow culture, society or those that surround your life to define it for you. You have a calling. You have a purpose. Is it to be an accountant at your father’s business or the CEO of your own? Only you know for sure. Is it to get a degree in medicine or go straight into a job working with your hands and creating something from nothing? A diploma doesn’t define you or your dreams.
Don’t be afraid to tell others to back off — diplomatically, of course. You’ll need support from the very people who believe they know what’s best for you and are “just trying to help.” They really do care, but if you have a goal that your heart yearns to accomplish, then go! Do! Be! You define you.
They say life is what you make it. Well, in this life, what you do and commit yourself to is a direct reflection of who you are. So commit to something good. Take on a project bigger than yourself. Be involved in something because it makes a difference, not necessarily because it makes you money. On the flip side, if you do good unto others honestly and ethically, the money does indeed flow.
The world right now is a very different place than it even was 10 years ago — heck, one year ago. There is a lot of fear, discomfort and gloomy forecasts. People everywhere are hungry for the good, the uplifting and the integrity that there seems to be a deficit of. Let your light shine bright in the darkness of this fear and worry and in your purpose.
You have greatness within you and the power to change the world if you so choose.
There will be challenges. Remember, even Dr. Suess was rejected by 27 publishers before ever selling his first children’s book. But he tried again a 28th time because he believed in his talent and work, and that proved to not only be successful, but he is still contributing to our lives and culture years after his death.
Whatever it is that you commit your life to, as long as it helps people and fulfills your pursuit of happiness, you’re on the right track. You might be coming from a class of hundreds, but the power of you as an individual should never be discounted.
Be a beacon for others; be the innovator, the creator, the role model and lead by example.
You got this.
Columnist Wade Heath is the founder of DoGoodBeGreat.com.