Congratulations! Be it high school or college, all that hard work you’ve put in these last four years (five, if you were me in college) has resulted in a frameable piece of paper (not to mention an appreciable debt, if you were me in college). Your mind has probably been on the parties, gifts, and maybe even the moist eyes of your parents as you look out over the audience (tears of disbelief, if you were me in college).
Now come the awkward days after the ceremony ends. You’ll notice your parents staring longingly at your room and saying things like, “I’ll bet I could fit a treadmill in there.” You’ll have to come up with new ways to justify sleeping until noon once the post-finals honeymoon period ends. Soon enough, Uncle Lou will corner you after dinner and ask the dreaded question: “So, what’s next?”
Graduation often comes as a surprise for those who think it means much. We don’t get secret decoder rings or discounts on anything cool. We don’t suddenly get to go on rides we couldn’t the day before. We’ll still have to endure endless interviews if we want (heaven forbid) to get a job. We experienced more tangible benefits on the day we got our driver’s license, so why is graduation such a big deal?
This is why I echo every professional athlete who’s ever addressed a middle school assembly: Stay in school, kids!
If you crawl back to campus in September, you won’t have to apologize for enjoying your summer. You won’t have to worry about whether you’ll have a roof over your head or food stuck to your plates. All the uncertainties surrounding health care, tax rates and mortgage payments can be saved for later, like last week’s pizza you’re keeping warm on the radiator. This is the freedom of continuing one’s education, a kind of “Get Out of Adulthood Free” card that insulates us from the responsibilities that plague the gainfully employed. Hope springs eternal in a shallow enough pool.
When the two roads diverge in that yellow wood, don’t worry over which one to take; set up a tent and hope there’s wifi.
Your parents won’t agree, of course. Nor will your friends who chose to dive head-first into the real world. Your self-esteem needs to be strong enough to withstand silly things like logic or reason. This is where all those years receiving participation trophies and getting graded on a curve should pay off. Don’t let them snuff out the Lantern of Learning simply because they don’t appreciate the value of a master’s degree in ancient musical philanthropy. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!
Like an underfunded pension system, kick that can down the road and focus on you for now. There will always be time to regret your choices later, and all that graduation money you got from Grammy could probably pay off your bar tab. If you play your cards right, it might be years before you’re dragged kicking and screaming into the rat race. After all, you can’t spell “happily deferring“ without Ph.D.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.