A few words of advice for this year's graduates -- and others Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

It's hard to believe, especially since it snowed the morning that I'm writing this, but another year of school is almost over.

For those graduating, it's a time of significant change, ready or not. For those returning, the opportunities are less obvious, but they're just as readily available.

You have to know what you're looking for and be willing to embrace change. If you're tired of being the quiet type, speak up. If you're tired of always hearing your voice, listen.

Embrace who you are. Watch the movies and television shows you want to watch. Read the books you want to read. Listen to your music without fear. No matter what you watch or listen to, remember to be considerate of others. Give them the freedom to enjoy their favorites the same way you enjoy yours.

Never turn down a first date. You may be surprised. Consider turning down second dates. You won't be surprised.

Your core values represent who you are. They're too valuable to discard if it means becoming someone you don't want to be. Always listen to what others say, but don't always believe them. Believe in what you know to be true and right and just, and never stray.

Always plan for the weekend, but never use the weekend as an excuse to not take advantage of today. Limit your regrets. When opportunity presents itself, take advantage.

You've heard, "Whenever a door is closed a window is opened." That's true, and good advice. But, don't forget that closed doors aren't always locked. Sometimes they're closed because the person on the other side wants to see if you're smart enough to use the doorknob.

Don't give others the chance to define you until you're comfortable with how you define yourself. Don't let the friends worth fighting for get away. Let those you've outgrown go gracefully. Jettison those who bring you down; say goodbye and don't look back.

Make the most of today before it ends. Always dream. But, never forget some dreams are better when they don't become reality.

Be aware of your personal unwritten rules. You'll promise yourself that you'll go to bed early, that you'll eat right, that you'll exercise more. Follow those rules whenever possible. You created them for a reason.

But never forget that rules are made to be broken. Some of your greatest memories will be created when you stay out too late, eat bad food, and sit around.

Ignorance is bliss. Avoid those who embrace being the happiest person they know.

Appreciate all points of view, but never fool yourself into thinking all points of view are equal. They're not. Some people have beliefs that are wrong; others are misinformed. Whenever possible, ignore the former and educate the latter.

Life is not a race. Go at your own pace. There is no prize for being the first person to be engaged or married. It doesn't matter who gets promoted first. Those things will happen for you when, and if, they're meant to. You can't enjoy your life if you're jealous of someone else's.

Make mistakes. Don't be defined by them. If you openly acknowledge your shortcomings, it's harder for others to criticize you for them.

And, no matter what, recognize the opportunities you receive. They don't just occur at the end of the school year, or calendar year, or any other measurement of time you can imagine. Opportunities occur every day. Be fearless.

But, most importantly, never be afraid to say no. Pass on opportunities that aren't right for you.

If you do that more often, you'll lead a happier life.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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