All around the country, high school students are graduating. Throwing off the shackles of childhood and becoming adults. Getting ready to take the next big steps in their lives.
As much as the graduation ceremony is a pain for teachers (we get to haul the chairs out, stay late after school, put on silly outfits, and smile at everybody we see), it’s kind of awesome, too. Far be it from me to attach symbolism where there is none, but there’s something about seeing the students dressed up in their caps and gowns and tassels and stoles that somehow washes away a year (or more!) of silly behavior in a classroom and makes you think they’re going to be all right.
Still, they’re not done yet. Like a cake being checked by an overzealous baker, they need to cook a little longer. And as anybody over the age of thirty can tell you (with no hint of doom and gloom at all, naturally), it only gets harder from here. Whether it’s college or the armed forces or an early entry into the school of Real Life, it will quickly become apparent that high school was a milk run.
So, a double-edged bit of advice for anybody on the cusp of a great thing: Don’t be afraid to brake, but don’t break.
First, don’t be afraid to break. The sharknado happens fast in this world, and as Ferris Bueller said, “if you don’t slow down and look at it once in a while, you might miss it.” It’s true: the time seems to constrict around times of great import. The last few weeks of the semester fly by. You just can’t stop writing (or reading!) when you get to the end of the novel. And deadlines never approach so fast as when they’re right on top of you. Before you know it, the next thing will be here, and while it’s easy to shift your focus from what you’ve just finished and go straight into worrying about the next thing, don’t forget that there’s life happening everywhere all the time, spilling out of the cracks and gaps in your schedule, oozing out around the corners of all the things you have to do to get ready. Pump the brakes. Slow down for a minute. Enjoy and appreciate the world around the outside of everything that has to be done.
If you don’t take time to slow down like this every once in a while, you’ll burn out and lose the drive to do even the things that matter to you. But that brings us to the second part: you can’t break for too long. This country is built on towns that sprung up when people headed out west broke down and never got started again. And don’t tell me your goal was to make it to Kansas. (Sorry, Kansas natives. Your state is even boringer than a blank sheet of paper; at least you can write or draw on a sheet of paper, or fold it into a totally sweet airplane. All you can do in Kansas is drive through it for hours, never sure if you’re actually making any progress.) Your momentum in life matters, and if you don’t get moving again soon, inertia will swallow you like a black hole and you’ll find yourself sucked into the gravity of the same old path of least resistance. Pull over for the pit stop and look around, but know when it’s time to get moving again.
In short, enjoy the summer after your graduation — or a week or two of rest after finishing that big project — or whatever it is that you need to recharge your batteries before you move on to the Next Big Thing.
But then, get moving toward the Next Big Thing, before it drives on down the road without you.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.