Graduation from high school is bittersweet. On one side there is the sense of accomplishment and joy of moving on to another phase of one's life. On the other, is the harsh reality of having to survive and make a living down the horizon.
To all the graduates in the region, congratulations - enjoy the moment. Then take a deep breath.
Now for some random thoughts and advice for the Class of 2012.
The reality is that many of you will eventually move away from the area, and for a variety of reasons. Some will go off to college and pursue a career that will require living somewhere else. Others will move on just to live somewhere other than where they grew up. Others will remain and do what it takes to live in the Olympic Region. There is nothing wrong with either direction.
Those who move on to college, good luck. Study hard and take advantage of everything an institution of higher education has to offer. Regardless if you attend a small private college or a large university, it all depends on how much effort you put into your education. You will certainly reap what you sow.
For those who do not go to college, no worries. College is not for everyone. And you can always choose to go later in life.
The important thing, is to take your time and make the right choices. Sometimes, wrong choices are made. But as high school graduates, you have some wiggle room. There's plenty of time to change course if need be. Don't panic, but don't become complacent.
Don't let bad influences lead you into the wrong direction. Don't do things just because you think it's the "cool" thing to do. If you make a mistake - and everyone makes them - accept responsibility for your actions. No one can force you to make a bad choice.
Remember that doors won't open by themselves. They will open only after hard work and dedication. Stay the course - never give up - and you will succeed.
Most importantly, become a learning sponge. Don't just become "book or street smart," become life smart. You should learn from every experience.
Rule of thumb: draw any positive you can from a negative experience. Most times it will be a challenge when something bad happens in life. But if you seek a positive lesson, you will find one. Too many people focus on the negatives in life - be a positive force.
Always find time to smile and laugh - especially at your own follies and humanity. Smile even when you're not happy. One has to be just a little crazy to remain sane in this world. Don't take things too seriously. The young at heart live longer.
And remember, any obstacle can be overcome.
If every one of the Class of 2012 remembers just one of these tidbits of advice, this was worth the ink. Congratulations, and enjoy the next phase of life.