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On Graduation

As we sit on the cusp of summer vacation for schools everywhere, across the country students are donning robes like Harry Potter characters and preparing to step out of their comfort zones and into the next phases of their lives. Some are graduating high school, preparing to enter the workforce or college, some are exiting college to hopefully find careers in their fields, and others leaving professional programs, ready to enter residencies, or legal fields or the ministry.

I’ve heard a lot of graduation speakers. Some good, some bad, and almost all easy to forget. But as a graduate myself, I thought I would give it a shot. If I got to be the keynote speaker, what would I say to the crowd?

  1. Don’t try to give meaning to everything this week.

As exams end, family comes into town, and graduation parties are thrown, it is tempting to try to take it all in, and make meaning where often times, there isn’t any. It starts to get exhausting. Yes, this will be the last time you turn in a paper, or the last time you walk across the quad. But you don’t need to put any significance on these actions. You’ve done them before, and you can remember those times, because what you experienced in the ordinary day-to-day is what is really meaningful- not only the final time you do it.

  1. Reflection is an ongoing process.

You will be looking back this week over the past few years. You will think of triumphs and failures, funny stories and friends made. But reflection is not meant to be a yearly occurrence, but an ongoing one. Don’t wait for ceremonial procedures to feel sentimental and cast everything in a warm glow. To be a successful and emotionally healthy person, you need to constantly orienting yourself to what goes on around you and understanding the meaning it is imbibed with.

  1. Make decisions based on values, not on greed

Whether getting a job or heading onto further education, it is tempting to make your life plan on what will make you financially secure, or what culture defines as success. Although financial security is a wonderful thing, life is more than money. Happiness is not how much money you make, and there is a big difference between a good resume and a good life. If you do what you’re passionate about, then you won’t work a day in your life. If you are simply working to make money, you may find yourself looking back on graduation years from now and wondering, “what if?”

James Harris

James is probably the 3rd or 4th funniest guy you know. Funny enough to invite to a party; not witty enough to talk about later. Co-Founder and Content Editor of Everyday Exiles, Director of College Ministry at Reynolda Church, EPC, and husband to Meredith. He has a dog named Calvin, a cat named Opie, and a robot vacuum named Alfred.

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