To the Class of 2023

Hello, young friends. It’s that time of year; only a few days remain until we turn to that last page. Graduation night.

Just as fast as this year came, now it draws to a close. The past 12 years have gone by in a flash, in a moment like breath on a mirror. You accomplished great things, and you saw the world change so much in such a short period of time. You made it through COVID and thrived.

But now a new world looms. The adults, well, we know the challenges that are a’comin. So just once more, let an old fella, a simple teacher from up Northwest Louisiana way, give you one lesson as you get ready to go on out there into that big bad world.

Point one: 

You cannot stop change from coming. The time to move on has come. You can’t stop change, no matter how much you wish you could. And sometimes, that change can be a very good thing. You may not want to stop it. Change can bring risks in its wake, but a life lived without ever taking a risk is not a life well lived. Change is the common theme for the rest of your life. I’m reminded of what another writer once said of change. This fellow was more proficient at prose than I could ever hope to be, and I like what he says better than anything I could ever muster. So he said, when you think about it, we’re all different people, all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, remember you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. Just remember and just swear. You will not forget one line of this, not one day. Swear. You will always remember when you were here. And no matter how many years go by, no matter how many summers you see, your school will always be a part of you.

Point two:

A lot of you have shown us you have something that can’t be attained. Grit. You were born with it. It’s that simple. When the world seemed crazy, and your life was upside down and you were struggling to stay afloat in heavy seas, you didn’t give up. You made a stand. You had the guts to do what you deemed right even if others turned tail. Continue doing that. It’ll get harder in your 20s and 30s as you take on more responsibility- not just for yourself but the family that will likely come. But then around the middle of your life you’ll realize that standing up for what you believe in is really about the only thing in life that matters. As Polonius told his son Laertes “to thine own self be true.”

Point three:

It’s ok to mess up. It really, really is. Just know that it is a human fault to usually remember the bad as opposed to the good. In other words, when you mess up, no matter how much good you do, those around you will likely remember that one bad moment more than all those good ones. And you know what? That’s ok, too.

Life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things can’t always make a nice soft cushion from the bad things. But the bad things don’t always spoil the good or make them not matter. 

Life will hit you. People will hit you (hopefully not literally). And there likely won’t always be someone there to help you get up. But get up anyway.

Point four:

Don’t grow old before your time. I say that, but truthfully, this is the hardest thing to do in what I’m telling herein. Somewhere between now and say 25-26 (somewhere around in there) you’re going to start losing some of that inexhaustible palp of life you are drawing on now for your youthful vigor. Next thing you know you’ll wake up one morning and the face staring back at you in that mirror will be that of a 40 year old with all the well-worn marks of adult life. It just kinda ebbs away. You don’t know it’s happening. It’s not like a tire blowout. More of a slow trickle.

Life will pass you by if you let it. So live it. You are all so ready to get out. Hit the real world. However, it’ll hit back. And once you hit that rat race, it will likely forever dominate and consume you. So as you go into it, make sure you know to make time to live life. Make time to see people and go places. Be responsible so that you can live a life worth living. Make the right financial decisions, and if you don’t know how to do something then ask someone who does. Mistakes made early can last a long time. It’s ok to mess up (point three), but why take a risk when an answer is only a text away?

Point five:

Floss and take care of your teeth.

Point six:

Don’t abuse credit cards. Really, really don’t.

Point seven:

Don’t ever be so “grown” that you can’t act childish and silly from time to time.

Point eight:

Listen to other people. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. And when you do talk, be calm. Loud doesn’t equal right.

Point nine:

Life is like the ACT a lot of times. There may be more than one right answer to a problem but there’s usually only one correct answer.

And finally point ten:

Always be the optimist. Dream. But don’t just think and never do. Go get what you are worth. Work hard. Work smart. And just realize that even though you may fail, never give up. Hard work does not guarantee success, but don’t work hard and see how far that gets you.

That’s it. Everything has an end. All clocks strike 12. The world keeps spinning and the days keep dwindling. This was your story in high school and your school’s chapter in the book that is your life. You’re now tasked with writing new stories, filling those pages with more stories of your own.

Make them good ones.

Or you could just ignore everything I’ve said here. I would have when I was your age. You’re a teenager after all. Life will teach you what we couldn’t. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help.

(Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized five times for excellence in opinion writing by the Louisiana Press Association.)