"You have brains in your head. You have shoes on your feet. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you want."
-- Dr. Seuss
Congratulations, class of 2010! And welcome to this exciting new stage in your life.
Graduation is an exciting time -- a moment you've been eagerly anticipating, and a day you've fantasized about every time you were stuck in one of those boring high school classes while your teacher belabored the importance of the Pythagorean theorem.
You have pictured yourself with diploma in hand countless times, and, let's face it, you've probably been walking through your halls donning an imaginary cap and gown all year long. Trust me, I was all over that last year. Graduation could not come soon enough.
BUT AFTER YOU'VE thoroughly romanticized your graduation ceremony and the freedom it brings, you are faced with the more intimidating side of independence.
At this point, you have to make decisions for yourself, which means you have to know exactly what is best for you. You have to figure out where to go, what to do, and how to become successful in life. You've probably already thought about where life will take you after graduation. You applied to colleges, visited schools, and applied for scholarships. You asked a lot of questions and made decisions as you endured the immense pressure from your teachers and parents and deadlines.
All those decisions were stressful, and you reveled in the tremendous weight that was heaved from your shoulders with every application you finished. And with every decision you made, you really hoped it was the right one. You second-guessed yourself, you talked to advisors, and you made sure that you were taking the right steps toward success because you knew that this is a big deal. Even now, you feel like your entire future rides on each decision, because you feel compelled to succeed and to find success as soon as possible.
But if I have learned anything important after my first year of independence, it's that every graduate is different, and your success is your own.
Some of you are graduating high school with your first-choice college acceptance letter in hand, ready to kick it university style. Some of you are staying at home and commuting to school, and some are taking a year off to work or travel or decide what exactly you want to do with the rest of your entire life.
THIS DOESN'T MEAN that one graduate is going to succeed further than another, and it doesn't mean that the college students are better than those who are undecided about their futures. It means that each one of you is different, and you are able to decide what is best for yourself. You are the only one who knows exactly what you want, and as a fully-functioning, independent member of society, you have the responsibility to choose your individual path to success.
Throughout your high school years, you learned that you were an individual with thoughts and ideas and convictions. You learned from teachers, parents, and fellow students, and you developed these ideas and learned even more about yourself. After all of this, you should have confidence in your ability to make decisions and defend them relentlessly. Your own informed, independent choice is the only correct one, so take the time and effort to figure it out!
Whatever you're doing after you graduate, be proud of yourself. You just rocked 13 years of laborious education, and that's impressive. You have a brain packed and fit to burst with informed ideas, and these ideas will only develop more as you enter the real world. You have all the skills to apply your ideas and the ability to share them with the rest of the world. You have already accomplished so much during your childhood years -- now take it further into adulthood with your head held high.
Don't feel obligated to be anything you don't want to be. Rejoice in your ability to decide for yourself.
Like I said, your success is your own. You're smart, you're able, and you have every tool necessary to do whatever you want.
And like Dr. Seuss said, "You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."
So, choose! Then, after making the choice, begin moving forward with confidence and pride.
(The writer, a graduate of Alleluia Community School in Augusta and a rising sophomore at Mercer University in Macon, is an Augusta Chronicle editorial department intern.)