What I Wish I Knew when I Graduated

I was privileged to attend my oldest granddaughter’s high school graduation this past week. There were so many things I would love to tell her about the times to come, but some of them she will just need to learn on her own. That is how wisdom is gained. However, I decided to write a letter here with the top ten things I want her to know about life.

To My Dear Granddaughter,

I have watched as you have grown from an imaginative and spunky little girl, into a kind, thoughtful, and beautiful young woman. You make people feel good just by being around you. I love that about you. Your life is just beginning and you will have many opportunities to choose the path you will follow. Choose wisely.

When I look back to my time in college and afterwards, there are many things that I wish I had known. I think sometimes I just had to learn the hard way, but I hope that you are wise enough to listen to the lessons others can give you. So here are some things I think may be helpful on your life journey.

  1. Always keep God first. There will be many times in your life that you will be tempted to forget all about God. There will also be times that you look at organized religions and are disappointed at the disparities your see. Instead look at the life of Christ. See his actions and listen to his words. Because they will give you a life worth living. Jesus cared about truth and justice. He cared about the poor and disenfranchised. His ministry broke racial (the Samaritan woman) and gender boundaries (Mary Magdalene was one of the disciples that traveled with their group). Love God. Love your neighbor.
  2. Establish boundaries in your life and learn to graciously say no. Decide what and who is important to you. But even those you love sometimes need boundaries. I recommend the book by Lysa Terkeurst, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are. Sometimes it is hard to set boundaries and say no, but for your peace of mind there will be times it is necessary in your life.
  3. Always keep a sense of humor. Be able to laugh at yourself. Laugh with others (not at them) and remember that joy is a gift from God. It is well-known that laughter really is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
  4. Choose your friends wisely. I still have good friends that I made in college. It is important when you are choosing the people you are hanging out with, that you are sure they are the kind of people you need in your life. Good friends build you up, they don’t tear you down. Good friends are encouraging, they are not negative all the time. Good friends can tell you the truth in a loving and kind way. Good friends don’t gossip and backstab. Good friends share your laughter, you tears, your joys and your sorrows. Choose wisely.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I always tended to let the “what ifs” discourage me from trying something new. Yet, I found that it is sometimes better to try and fail, than to not try at all. And when you try and soar, it is all worth it.
  6. Choose a vision statement. Think about what you want out of life. Write it down. Figure out what you need to get there. Then go for it. Through different stages of your life, that vision may change, but always keep a vision of where you want to go written down where you will see it frequently.
  7. Don’t let failure define you. Everybody fails at something. I could make a whole list of people who have failed at something– people like Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein. Every time you fail, look at it as an opportunity to learn.
  8. Become a well-rounded person. Read books. Watch documentaries. Learn a foreign language. Take piano lessons or cooking lessons or Taekwondo or a painting class (you get the picture). Learning new skills is good for the soul.
  9. Develop the art of listening. Listening to someone’s story gives you great insight into their personality. Sometimes even the person who drives you crazy has a story that leads you to greater understanding of why they are the way they are. Everyone wants and needs someone to listen to them. (Granted there are some people who you really want to turn the stop button on.) But listening will help you become a better friend, mentor, and teacher for others.
  10. Love yourself. Second to loving God, I think the most important thing I can tell you is to LOVE YOURSELF. It is so easy in this media saturated world to make comparisons. You are unique and there is only one you. We can always stretch and grow, but learn to love yourself the way you love others. Stop the negative self-talk and instead give yourself some positive self-talk: I am kind. I am a good friend. I am empathetic. You are worthy of being loved.

There are so many things learned in life. Some of them are painful, like a first heartbreak. But some of them are wonderful opportunities that enhance your life. Just remember that you are surrounded by people who love you and care about you. When life gets overwhelming sometimes, just pick up the phone and talk (I know you prefer texting). I promise, I will listen.

You have had a piece of my heart since the first time I held you in my arms. I wish only the best for you as you journey through this thing we call life. I love you, Nana

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