Some hard advice for graduates

By Jeff Linville -

Last week I attended Surry Central’s graduation.

Over the past 22+ years as a journalist I have covered a number of graduations either as the reporter or the photographer. Which means I’ve sat through a whole lot of speeches in my time.

Unfortunately, my own high school graduation is one where I didn’t get to hear the speeches — at least not most of them.

The North Surry Class of 1989 held its ceremony on the football field where it had rained earlier in the day. Perhaps the moisture was to blame, perhaps it was just old or faulty wiring, but the microphone started cutting in and out during the ceremony.

It was really upsetting because a good friend was giving one of those speeches, but I couldn’t make out half of what Kim was saying.

When it came time to hand out diplomas, the skies were dark and threatening. I got my piece of paper, but somewhere around the R’s or S’s, the heavens opened and buckets of water fell.

We quickly decided it wasn’t worth it to stand in water to stand on ceremony and made a run for the nearest open buildings.

It’s crazy, but there are people I was very close with in high school that ran off in some direction and I didn’t see where. And I never saw them again. Never. Some went off to college. Some went to work. I went to Fort Benning, Georgia. How could you spend so much time together over four years (or six years back to Gentry) and then people just disappear from your life? It can happen. It will happen to many of these new graduates.

That’s just one of many harsh truths I would share with seniors — if I wanted to give the biggest downer of a speech in graduation history — your friends won’t be your friends much longer, at least not all of them. Better learn to make new ones.

Another harsh truth: you learn to make friends in school. You have to, especially when you move from a small elementary school to a consolidated middle school. To a lesser extent you may do that every year because you might not have a class with your best friends, or you might get separated and have to sit on opposite sides of the room (that sounds familiar).

But, making friends is a skill. And like any other skill, if you don’t use it, it gets rusty. Five years after school (whether it’s high school or college) making new friends will seem harder than it used to be. In 20 years, many folks would rather stay in and watch TV every night than fumble their way through trying to make a friend. Try to keep that skill sharp over the years.

Here’s one specifically for all you brainy kids with the table runners and the curtain ties draped over you as you cross the stage. For many of you, being smart won’t matter in 10 years. Maybe you’ll get your bachelor’s degree, then a master’s and then the world is your oyster. But, most likely you will wind up working for some corporation where the person calling the shots isn’t as smart as you, but knows how to kiss up to the right people and play office politics.

You will find yourself making suggestions to improve the company that either are ignored because that person isn’t smart enough to see the benefit, or your supervisor will steal the idea and pass it off to his or her boss as an original idea. It happens all the time.

Here is another truth: most of you will always feel poor. You may not actually be poor, but you’ll feel like it. There is an old saying that work will expand to fit the time allowed. If your teacher gives you three days to write a paper, it will take you three days to write it. If the teacher gives you a week, somehow that same paper will take you a week.

The same thing happens with paychecks. No matter how much you make (unless you are way overpaid), you will find your bills expand to take up all your money. It starts with things like a car. You had some piece of crap in high school, but now you want something reliable to get to your first real job. But then you get married and want a family car. Then you have kids and want a minivan or SUV. The price tag goes up and up.

The same thing happens with where you live and how much that costs you. If you make more money, you will spend it on a nicer place. And you will still be broke on Thursday night waiting for that direct deposit on Friday.

When I got married, my wife and I thought we needed to rush out and get all the things our parents had. The difference was that our parents spent years working and saving and slowly accumulating possessions. They didn’t just go out and buy a living room set, an entertainment center, a TV, a VCR (yeah, yeah, I’m old) and home stereo system.

Start small, be humble and remember that we really do appreciate the things that we work the hardest to achieve — whether it’s buying that first new car or holding that college degree or taking home a sweet Les Paul with a Heritage Cherry burst and ‘57 retro humbucker pickups and … ahem, I digress.

Things that come easy feel disposable. When we work hard for it, we’ve earned it.

Now all you’ve got to do is figure out what you care about enough to work hard for it.

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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