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There is life after high school

On a May night some twenty-four years ago, I stood in Greenville’s Tiger Stadium in my cap and gown and delivered a speech.

I no longer remember all the particulars of that salutatory address. I do know I rehearsed those three-odd minutes backwards, forwards and sideways, hoping to at least make the impression of being poised and confident before my peers, their families and the GHS faculty.

I guess my efforts paid off. No rotten tomatoes were aimed my way. I returned to my seat with relief and a tremendous sense of satisfaction that I’d gotten through my little presentation without a hitch.

Valuable life lesson learned: While practice doesn’t always make perfect, it surely makes life tend to be a lot less humiliating.

That’s just one of a few nuggets of wisdom I would like to pass on to all those young people preparing to move on to a new phase of their lives. Who knows, maybe a few of you older folks also will benefit from my semi-sage advice.

Avoid small-mindedness. Pursuing petty jealousies, piffling gossip and quibbling over unimportant stuff doesn’t make you a better person

just a meaner, more narrow one. Rise above it.

Love people; use things. We often get the important stuff backwards in our consumer-driven culture. Remember, ‘things’ cannot give you love, loyalty, encouragement or kindness.

Realize you aren’t always going to be on the top of the heap

or the bottom.

Remember, there will always be people who are smarter, better looking and more talented than you

and people who are less so. It helps keep things in the proper perspective. Do the best you can with what you have.

Know that failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Without some flops in life, how can we ever truly appreciate our successes?

Stop, look and listen. It’s a good habit to practice in life

and not just at railroad crossings.

In your personal relationships, don’t just ‘settle.’ If that guy or girl treats you indifferently or badly now, it’s very likely not going to get better. Don’t involve yourself with Mr. or Ms. Wrong expecting to change them. More than likely you’ll do the changing

for the worse.

Never stop learning in life. Remember, it’s better to wear your brain out than to let it rust out. We waste way too many of those precious little gray cells.

Make a concerted effort to be polite and courteous. You will indeed ‘catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’

Travel when you have the opportunity. It really does broaden the mind and expand your horizons. While there’s no place like home, you will not fully realize or appreciate it until you have a chance to see what else is out there.

Daily practice an attitude of gratitude.

Don’t whine. (It’s the eleventh commandment, you know.)

Do make friends outside your own age group, race, nationality and comfort zone. You’ll learn from them; they’ll learn from you.

The Golden Rule never tarnishes. Do treat others the way you want to be treated.

And always remember

there IS life after high school. And life is meant to be a banquet. Don’t be one of those poor suckers out there starving to death. The adventure awaits. Congratulations!