Some advice for graduates stepping into the ‘real world’

Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Graduation is almost upon us and hundreds of our local students are champing at the bit to get across that stage and on to the next phases of their lives. 

As we approach this exciting time of year, I thought maybe it was time for some advice for our graduates as they prepare to step out of high school and into the “real world.”

First of all, and this may come as a comfort or a source of anxiety – I can see it going either way, but I mean it as the former: Don’t be overwhelmed or discouraged by comparing yourself to others, because no one has it all figured out. Seriously. We’re all lost to some extent and no one has things as together as they appear. Think for a moment of that student in your class that you just know has cracked the meaning of life, has his or her plans for the future all mapped out and seems to know what to do in any given situation. Do you have that person pictured in your mind? Good. Guess what? They have no clue what’s going on either. At least no more than you do. I don’t say that as a knock against that person, but as reinforcement that you are doing just fine and have no more reason to be worried or anxious than anyone else. Once you understand that, it helps you worry a little less and feel free to take chances a little more.

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Which leads me to my next piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to mess up. In fact, do it. Mess things up. Not on purpose. But, try a lot of things; change your major; take a job you aren’t sure of. I’m not saying you should be unsafe or careless. But, I am saying not to feel like life after high school is so rigid that one misstep means inevitable catastrophe. Sometimes, it’s the things you think of at the time as your biggest failures that you’ll later realize were the moments you learned the most important lessons of your lives.

Next, remember you’ve been living in the “real world” this entire time. Don’t let people psych you out about the next phase of your life. They probably mean well, but you all have nearly two decades of life experience to draw on. Use it. You each have a unique story that includes parents or guardians, teachers, friends, church families, sports teams, and a million other groups of people that have helped to mold you into the exact person that is about to become a high school graduate. Think about that. You’ve made it through a time in your life a lot people struggle with. Bullies exist in high school; heartbreak – often for the very first time – happens within those halls; successes you didn’t think you could achieve and failures you didn’t see coming. And you made it through all of that and are about to come out the other side with a diploma. The future holds a lot more successes – and a lot more failures and heartbreaks, too. But, you’ve experienced it all before. You know what to do. You’ve got this.

Lastly, and most importantly – be kind out there to people and you’ll be just fine. I’m not saying to be a pushover. But, you’ve probably heard a lot lately that this “real world” I keep mentioning eats people up and spits them out. Sure. It can. But, if you remember we’re all out there in it together and try to practice empathy, you’ll get a lot further in the world and, even when it seems like you’re getting the raw end of the deal, you’ll be able to lay your head down at night and know you didn’t cause that to happen to anyone else. If we all did that more, maybe people wouldn’t warn kids about life after high school as much as they would tell you about all of the cool things you’re about to experience.

And you are about to experience cool things! I promise. For some of you, college comes next. For others, you’re about to step into the workforce for the first time. For some, it’s the military. Whatever it is you are walking into, there’s excitement to be had. It probably seems silly to you now – and even kind of corny – but as you enter this next phase, whatever that might entail, do so with enthusiasm. Work hard, help others as much as you can, and remember what I said at the beginning of this: Everyone is fighting the same insecurities and confusion. You aren’t alone. Far, far from it. 

The world is a big place, guys. Get out there and enjoy it. But, before you do, enjoy these moments happening right now, because they will never happen again. Once you step across that stage, you can’t go back. So tell that teacher you like thank you. Hug a friend you might not see again for a long time. And be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far.

Congratulations, Class of 2024. We can’t wait to see what’s next for you.

Blake Bell is the general manager and executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at