By Kevin Williams
Graduates are flooded with advice in much the same way they’re flooded with offers for credit cars and car loans. The horizon beckons and adults wish to bestow youth with a compass to get there. The problem is that geographic directions aren’t subjective, and life directions are. One person’s north is another’s east. Or west. Only you can decide which is north.
I’ve spent the quarter-century since I tossed my cap into the air trying to figure which direction to go. So in the spirit of providing youth with a compass, here is some advice I’d give myself if I were 17:
EMBRACE ADVERSITY: Chances are you’ll make some awful decisions in the years ahead and, hopefully, you’ll make a few good ones too. What isn’t always clear is that you can use bad to make good. We all know that some of the earth’s richest soil is volcanic. So use the fire and molten rock of your deepest regrets and worst decisions to make your life better. Plow the ashes of adversity into the soil of your life and use it as fertilizer and from it will grow a bountiful garden.
BE PATIENT: Some people hit their stride easily and quickly. Others, it takes 20 years. 30. You’ll get there if you don’t give up no matter how long it takes.
STAY IN SHAPE: Your body will begin to work against you in a few years. Slowly at first. The more you take advantage of the reservoir of youth now, the longer you’ll hold off the slow infirmities of age. Run. Weight-lift. Play tennis. Swim. Bike. Hike. Do it.
OWN YOUR WORST, BUT CREATE YOUR BEST: I’ve made my share of mistakes and poor choices. They’re mine and they’re part of who I am. But don’t let others define you by your worst moments. Instead, create your best moments and frame those.
DEFINE YOURSELF: There’s not much in life that’s truly ours. Material possessions come and go, experiences are fleeting. All we really have, in the end, is our narrative. Write it. Don’t let someone else write it for you. You’re not stupid. You’re not an idiot. You’re good and never forget it.
BE UNCONVENTIONAL: Just because everyone does something a certain way doesn’t mean you have to too. Paths are a worn from the feet of the masses mindlessly trodding where those before them have gone. You can go someplace different and make your own path.
BE CONVENTIONAL: Sometimes, though, there’s a reason why people are conventional: often conventional works.
TRUTH IS CURRENCY– Spend it wisely, accept it generously.
Other advice: Go to as many festivals as possible, visit the ocean as often as you can, read plenty of books, don’t be afraid to go out to dinner or a movie by yourself, learn to manage your money, follow rules, don’t blindly follow rules, eat plenty of pie, try to visit as many of the highest points in each state as you can, study maps, embrace history, learn to paint, and make plenty of friends.
That would be my advice.