First off, I would like to thank the readers that took my last column, about being a bit kinder, to heart. Your notes of encouragement, calls and e-mails were greatly appreciated. You dispelled my insecurity that I was coming across as if I were up on a soap box. For that, I thank you!
This time of year is my absolute favorite. Why? It isn't because of the melting snow, or the fresh feeling of spring, or the sun showing its face a bit more. It's because it is graduation season. That stretch after the prom, but before commencement exercises. Spirits run high for these seniors. The countdown is on the wall. Their days gracing school hallways are numbered. I am happy for them. Saddened to see such wonderful young people leave us, but I have no doubt they will go on to do amazing things.
Is this another rant of clich advice to high school seniors?
No, I do not want to be clich. I have always been forthright with my students, and there is no reason I should be anything but that with you as well.
You have made it through 12 (or more) years of public education successfully. You have dealt with grades and all kinds of teachers, ranging from those that impart knowledge, to the ones that had a deep impact on your life; the ones that you will remember forever. There was also drama, fights with friends, athletics, etc. As tough and horrible as it may have seemed at times, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but my darling seniors, this was the easy stretch.
From here, many of you move on to trade schools or college - a place where some of your teachers and professors don't really care if you pass the class, or even attend it. Perhaps you will venture right into the workforce or armed services, where you are easily replaced should you not show up or perform. With your schooling, you are paying for it. Why should they hound you? As an employee or service member, you are performing a job in which you are paid; why should that boss harp on you to show up on time or do the job for which you were hired. You are supposed to be a responsible young adult.
That is the key right there responsible. With adulthood comes this whole new, and very different set of responsibilities. Oh my goodness, the temptation! It comes down to you accepting those new responsibilities and making good choices. Keep yourself focused on where you want to go. Something that seems "petty" to you, like a DUI when you are in your 20s, is often frowned upon in many lines of work. That tirade you posted on Facebook about how much you hate your boss and want to die, will come back to haunt you.
I am not going to mollify the situation; it is pretty inevitable. Someone will offer you up some great temptation, and there are a lot of them out there. The only thing you can do is keep your eyes on the prize, try to make the best possible decisions and do what is right for you. Go to those classes. Show up to work on time. Invest the effort and energy into taking away as much experience as you can. The reality of the situation is that you will most likely be going into debt during this next endeavor, so get your money's worth. Focus on the future.
So, class of 2014, enjoy these last few weeks of your education here in the public school system. You will never have these moments back. That feeling of safety and security that comes with being at home, under the care of your parents (whether you like it or not) is a good feeling. That will change as you venture off to the dorms or where ever it is that you wind up. Life is not about merely "existing." It is what you do with your life that counts. I encourage you to Google the poem, "The Dash" by Linda Ellis. On a tombstone, there are two distinct numbers separated by a dash. That dash is what matters most to your family and friends. During this past Teacher Appreciation Week, I sent a copy of it to my fellow teachers and thanked them for what they are doing with their "dash." Make yours matter too.
Editor's note: Heather Heinz teaches English at Lake Linden MS/HS.