Considering this is grad season, I want to take a chance to give some honest advice for graduates.
I always thought most graduation speeches were boring and dull, full of cliches. I never understood why a valedictorian would act like they suddenly had a new type of beyond-their-years wisdom, like they weren’t the same person I saw try to slam a beer-bong of spiced rum at Jimmy’s place a month ago.
I’d like to offer some honest tips for grads. Some might apply to you, some might not. In the eight years since I graduated from Hapnot, I’ve seen and learned a lot, but recognize there’s still much I don’t know. I’m not going to use any cliches and I’m not going to BS you - I have no reason for that.
I know this is a weird time and COVID-19 probably isn’t helping out that sense of teenage angst that comes with high school ending. I’ll admit I don’t know what it’s like to not go to classes for months, to not see friends or enjoy the little things about high school life.
I’ll also admit I was more than a bit embarrassed to see some grads (along with their family members) giving double middles to social distancing during recent ceremonies - I’m no snitch and won’t name names, but come on. Also, for the grads drinking during the march? Use a flask like a grown-up. Leave the red solo cups at home. Bad look.
Now, some happier advice.
Enjoy your youth. You’d be amazed how soon you’ll have to start paying rent, car loans and credit card bills. Take advantage. You may not be invincible, but you’re definitely more physically capable than the old farts. Savour being able to bend your knees or back without grunting with discomfort. That goes away pretty fast.
Don’t be afraid to not know things. There’s no shame in not knowing about something, even with not knowing where you’re going in life. That’s fine. You would be amazed at how few people in general have any idea what they’re doing out in the world. If you haven’t found this out by now, you’ll likely find it out soon.
On that same note, always keep learning. Whether or not you’re continuing on with education, you’re never going to stop finding out new things. You’re not a complete human being at 18, nor are you one at 50. You’ll always be discovering new information. Sometimes, it will contradict what you already know. Take it all in, weigh what makes most sense and move forward.
Try new things. Make new friends. Eat weird food. Go to that place you’ve never been to before. There is a massive wealth of human experience out in the world just waiting for you to take it all in.
You can, in fact, change the world. Okay, I know I said no cliches - that’s the only one I’ll use, I swear. The modern world is interconnected in a way it’s never been before and individual actions can have incredible ripple effects. That can help you or that can burn you - it’s all how you handle it.
In all likelihood, high school isn’t going to be the best time of your life. It wasn’t for me. I didn’t really enjoy high school very much. I wasn’t bullied or harassed or anything like that - the student experience there just wasn’t always for me. That’s fine.
Looking back at your high school days constantly with rose-coloured glasses can cloud the way you view the present and the future. If you genuinely think your life won’t get better than it did at Hapnot or Creighton, it probably won’t. Don’t ever be satisfied with something that’s not good enough.
A lot of graduates are going to be leaving this area for school, work, training or other reasons. Some grads won’t be coming back at all, unless it’s just for the summers or holidays. I can’t blame them. If you want to contribute to the world, there are plenty of worthwhile things that you just can’t do in Flin Flon. That’s okay. You don’t owe Flin Flon anything.
With that in mind, this point goes to the grads who can’t stand this place - you may change your mind over time.
When I was in high school, I wanted to get out of town so bad it hurt. I left for university as soon as possible - I deliberately picked a school that both had the program I wanted and that didn’t have any other people I knew going there. I wanted nothing to do with Flin Flon and was convinced Flin Flon had nothing to offer me. A fresh start is what I sought.
When I came back, I did not want to live here. Family brought me back, not a desire to come home. Over time, I found out Flin Flon wasn’t as bad as I remembered. I still have a love-hate thing going on with the ‘Flon, but there is definitely love there.
Don’t let your past hold you back. You are now presented with a golden opportunity - you can reinvent yourself. Something about you that you don’t like? Change it! Stop preconceptions from holding you back.
You should grow. No one should ever be the same person at 21 that they were at 18 - if I had the chance to meet 18-year-old me when I was 21, I would have wanted to slap him. If I had the chance to meet 18-year-old me now, at age 26, I’d want to share some of the things I’ve learned and some of the stories I’ve heard - and after that, still maybe slap him.
God, that kid was a dick.
Finally, take care of yourself - mentally, physically, all of it. You are your own greatest ally. Nobody can fight for you and what you need more than you can. Never settle. Break new ground.
When you look over the grad class here any given year, there’s a wide range of people on the stage. There are future doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, public figures - maybe a felon or two, but hey, we’re in the north. That happens.
Set goals and fight like hell. With hard work and a little bit of luck, you’ll get to where you need to be.