This summer, I had the opportunity to talk with two recent high school graduates. Both were somewhat anxious about what happens next as they move on to college.
They acknowledged that college is a big step toward independence from parents and family, bringing with it the need to be more responsible for their own decisions. Although they both felt ready academically, they were more uncertain about leaving friends and family behind and fending for themselves on bigger, more complex campuses and in new living situations. Both were also torn by what they viewed as mixed messages from family, friends and teachers who, on the one hand, rave about the excitement of college life, and on the other hand, talk about how much they will be missed at home and how difficult it can be to start anew without friends and family close by for support.
Having known hundreds of high school graduates who have gone through this same major life transition, I felt emboldened to share some thoughts with these two most recent graduates that, I hope, will serve them well in college and for the rest of their lives:
Always take the high road — There are many decisions that are not necessarily black or white; many come in shades of gray. Always try to choose the path that would make your grandmother proud of you.
Don’t burn bridges behind you — Be sure to tend to and maintain the relationships you developed in the past. They will anchor and support you as you deal with the present and plan for the future.
Be humble — Projecting an air of being better than others will not endear you to anyone.
Nobody owes you anything — Adulthood hits like a ton of bricks. Your family and friends do not owe you anything; however, they may choose to support you… be grateful for the gift of that support!
Dress appropriately for every occasion — Maui casual is not the norm in most of the world. Match your attire to the situation, and when in doubt, an effort to dress up will usually work better than dressing down.
Keep the spirit of aloha — This gift of gracious warmth and love gained from living in Hawaii can set you apart from others if you continue to hold it in your heart and act accordingly.
Be honest with yourself and others — Don’t try to be something or someone that you are not. Facades fall away and can only complicate your life and relationships. Be true to your roots, your values and the things you know are right.
There is no such thing as a free lunch — Understand that working hard, being enterprising and fending for yourself build character. Be cautious of people offering “deals” or something that seems too good to be true… it usually is.
Patience is a virtue — In our fast-paced world, you will be tempted to expect things to happen immediately. Slow down. Impatience is not going to get you anywhere.
Aspire to greatness — It is better to set high goals and expectations for yourself. Falling short of high goals is much better than not having any goals at all.
Believe in yourself — Have faith in your abilities and talents. Know that you can sort through and resolve problems and issues that arise. If you have that self confidence, without crossing into arrogance, others will believe in you, too!
Be grateful for small things — Appreciate what you have been given and thankful for the smallest act of kindness.
Respect others — Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully regardless of their position or station in life. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Be color blind — Remember the amazing diversity we love in Hawaii, even when you are in the company of people who do not share our experiences or our understanding of diverse cultures and races.
Be a gracious loser and a good sport — Those around you will respect you for handling both with grace and style.
Do everything in moderation — It is easy, particularly in college, to go overboard. Do your best to avoid excess!
Take care of your own stuff — Others around you will appreciate not having to look at your personal items or pick up after you.
Laugh every day — Humor makes everything seem better. Look for the lighter side of things and enjoy each moment.
Make time for friends and family — It is easy to become so involved in studies and work that you neglect those who love you the most. Always be there for them.
Save to invest — It is easy to spend everything you earn. Saving is hard, especially when you do not have a lot of income. However, in the long run, taking the cost of one pizza per week and putting it into an investment account is a great first step on your path to financial independence.
All of these ideas are what I consider to be common sense — guidelines that all of us, not just recent high school graduates, would do well to follow. In the midst of our busy and often-complicated lives, it is good to be reminded of them occasionally.