Today is the day. Your graduation. People keep asking me if I am sad. No, I am not sad. What I am is nervous. The thing that keeps me up at night is this nagging fear – Have I fully prepared my son for life? I know that sounds silly, but all those times I was worried about him sticking his finger in a light socket were just the simple lessons he needed to learn. Have I prepared him for real life outside of this bubble his father and I have created?
Here are a few things I want to tell him before he leaves for college.
Be your own cheerleader. Since our children are young, we teach them to be humble. Well, in real life sometimes the only person that can stand up and demand a raise, fair treatment or advocate for yourself is YOU. No, it is not fun. It is scary. Yes, sometimes your message will hit a brick wall and fly back and hit you in the face. Other times, you will leave feeling like you should have done that sooner.
Talk to strangers. There is a great big world going on while yours is going too. Take moments to reach out to others. While sitting on a city bus, strike up a conversation with the poorly dressed man sitting next to you. Your neighbors have lived and seen things you can only imagine. Do you remember when we go out of town, and I always ask the cab drivers about their lives? Many times you would roll your eyes and balk at my boldness. Well, I have found that just taking a few minutes to invest in someone else has taught me some of my most valuable lessons. It has given me the ability to practice empathy. Life is about living & learning. You can learn a lot about people if you just take a moment to ask and listen.
Be still. This is a tough one. You have never been one who likes to sit back and wait. Quiet times growing up may have seemed like a punishment. I was trying to get you to slow down. Sit and THINK about things. Rushing through life will only leave you exhausted and empty. Take a moment just to be still. Look around. Be grateful for your opportunities and blessings. Take that time to listen. Many times God uses those moments to whisper to you. It will be amazing what you can accomplish when you are quiet. Sounds silly but I promise clarity will come.
Never lose your character or personal integrity. These two qualities are what sets people apart. Character is all you have that is all yours. It is what you stand for! It is what you will and won’t allow in others. Your personal integrity will be tested from time to time. People will ask you to bend. Do not do it! Once you give that away, it is nearly impossible to get it back. So, it is yours to keep close and guard it with all you have!
Stay clean. I know, this makes you crazy when I nag about your laundry but come on….no one wants to share a room or date someone who stinks. Seems silly that I have to remind you of this but my son, you have a tendency to be lazy. If you kept your habitat clean and organized then that is just one less thing to cause stress. Give yourself a schedule. Goodness knows you have loved schedules since you were a kid then do this for your personal life.
Keep a sense of humor. Your father and I have tried hard to model this behavior for you. We like nothing better than to take a weird situation and make it silly. It is our way to cope. I know you secretly wished we would shut up. Well, we were just trying to make the best out of a bad situation. In life, sometimes you just have to laugh….or the other option is to cry. I will always choose to laugh!
Be generous. In college, you will find that the easiest and least expensive thing you can give is your time. Use that commodity to the best of your abilities. Give of yourself to a charity or organization where you can make a difference. You will be amazed at what that will do for your spirit! When you graduate, I hope you continue to be generous. Give to others just like all of those who helped mold you. I know you love to coach kids. Do that! Remember all of those coaches that gave to you. They gave their time so you could grow! Give freely and often. Take time reach out and volunteer. You will be amazed at how it will feed your soul.
Turn to Him. This is one of the most important things I hope for you as an adult. I showed up late to the “God Party”. I was 40 years old when I realized what all of that talk about “personal relationships” was about with God. It took me losing my Mom, becoming an alcoholic and almost losing my family to get with the program. I promise, son, this is the most exclusive club. Membership is a given. It sounds silly for a practically minded person like yourself, but honestly, it works. I cannot explain it to you other than I am changed for the better. Faith is the big thing when it comes to the Big Guy. If you will just make a point during those daily quiet moments just to talk to him….well that is the seed that will flower. When I sat in lines waiting for practices to end or while running errands, I would just strike up a conversation with God. I would many times start with a, “Hey God, thank you for this or that.” Then I would tell him about the things going on in our lives. I asked for help. It does not have to be anything preachy. Just be with Him. If you will do that I promise you will grow in Him. It is baby steps. This relationship with God is up to you. I can no longer force you to go to church or go to KLife. It is 100% in your court. Just take it from your Mom, I wish I had gotten with the program 20 years earlier than I did. It would have saved me a lot of heartaches.
Too Good to be True. If someone drives up to you at a gas station and tells you they have a $5000 stereo and you can buy it for $200, it is too good to be true. I know this sounds silly, but that stuff happens. Not everyone you come into contact with has your moral compass. Many times people are in it for them. So, be cautious. Think. God gave you this amazing brain so please use it. Keep that saying tucked away and then pull it out in a situation where things are just too good to be true. Then they probably are…
Open Ears. Sounds like a no brainer but this is something that is a learned behavior. It is all about looking past yourself and listening to others. Hearing is much different than listening. That takes time and attention. People will open up to you and talk to you about what is going on in their world. When that happens, it is your time to listen. Take the time to keep them in your prayers. Offer them help. Maybe just offer them some more of your day. Actually sometimes just a text or a call will make them feel like someone cares. That is so important in all of our journeys through life.
Love. The last thing I hope we taught you is how to love others. Please be open with your heart. Do not let the past hurts follow you along like an old wart. It will just stain your beautiful optimistic heart. I wish I could tell you that you will never have your heart broken. You will. But a wise doctor once told your father and me that a little “callus” on your heart is good for when the real deal comes along. Love is the greatest gift of life. It takes a risk but the rewards are tremendous.
Disappointments are what you make of them. I know through the years you have had people fail you. Friends who have chosen themselves over what is best for the group. You have been told no. Failed at those things you believed were attainable. How did you react? Do those failures define you? If I had never failed, I would never have learned the things to make me a success. None of us start out with a map. It is all about choices. Facing your failures head on and searching for the truth will lead you to success. I know this sounds silly. Failure has been blessing every time. I chose not to focus on the failure but what got me there. Please take the time to reflect on what might have led up to you missing a goal. Then pull up your big boy pants and get after it!
Check it Before you Wreck-It. Please stop worrying about yourself so much. Look outside of yourself and to others. Before you make big decisions check how your reaction or action will affect those around you! If you fail to do this, I promise you are going to wreck it! I did not have this on the wall of our kitchen growing up just because I liked the saying. I felt like this was crucial to your success! Don’t forget it!
Though these all seem like “no-brainers”, they are the things that will make or break you. I did not create these nuggets of wisdom to scare you. Rather, they are here so you can have a checklist in life. Sometimes the easiest answer to a problem is sitting right there in front you. I hope you look back on this fondly and remember that we tried with all of our being to make good decisions for you. Our only goal was to raise a good human being. I pray for you to be a light to those around you. This new phase is about to begin; please remember that we love you. We will always be close and available. Now go my sweet son and fly!