Dear Class of 2018


Here’s the deal: getting older is really freaking hard, but there is no way around it.

Our minds, our bodies and our souls age; if you paid any ounce of attention in biology, then you would know that there is no stopping that we get older. Each year, we celebrate a birthday, and, amidst the presents and cake, blowing out the candles signifies that we’ve taken another trip around the sun. Even the question “How does it feel to be a year older?” gets old. Yet, we accept it because we have no other option.

We celebrate getting older: losing our first teeth, becoming teenagers, getting driver’s licenses, buying those first lottery tickets, remembering the infamous 21st birthdays, experiencing the mid-life crises, living to the BIG 5-0 and more. Getting older also means milestones: graduating from high school and college, getting married, having children, being awarded promotions, buying cars and saying goodbyes.

Face it, seniors, you’re getting older; however, that isn’t my advice. Instead, no matter how obvious this advice is coming from me, I have three words for you: NEVER GROW UP.

See, the difference between getting old and growing up is simple. Getting old is a fact of life; growing up is a decision—a life choice and a chance to forever believe in what makes us genuine, authentic and true. So, get old, but don’t grow up, and in order not to grow up, you’ve got a few things you can do.

Let your wings spread wide and your talents soar—simply fly. But don’t fly to cast a shadow on others or to look better than the rest. Fly because it’s your chance to reach for the unattainable and your opportunity to do something that others cannot. And when you strive to achieve what others were unable to do, return to the ground, share what you’ve learned and benefit those around you. When you spread those wings and fly away, coming back home to make where you started a better place is truly one of the most rewarding and selfless things you will ever do.

Your imagination is your greatest gift, but it sadly is the first thing to go when you decide growing up is your priority. You stop picturing a world without boundaries. You stop burning the box and making something from its ashes. You stop dreaming big because you forgot what it means actually to dream. Stop letting people tell you that your idea isn’t good enough and start imagining again because, as long as you can imagine it, it’s worth trying to make happen.

Enjoy the moments and do so without inhibition. I’m not saying to forget that there are rules, but to remember that taking risks, sharing love and relishing in what you have right now are truly all you’ll ever need. What once was helps you be who you are right now; what will be is a product of what you do right now. That means live in the moment—carpe diem, to be clichéd. Stand on your desk and say goodbye to where you’ve spent what will be four of the most formative years of your life because the view will be entirely different, and it might just be the view you need to move on and to be better.

Fail—it’s okay. Fall flat on your face. Feel the pain and embarrassment. Find a way to get up, get better and move on. Failure—unlike the participation ribbons so many of you have been so generously awarded—means you’ve learned because you have to make something of that experience—something of nothing. You fail so you can learn from your mistakes and come back bigger, better, stronger and more you. You fail, and you learn more than ever who is in your corner and who will be there to pick you back up. You fail because it’s good for you.

Be unapologetically you, and refuse to compromise that version of you. As you get old, you’re undoubtedly going to come across people and situations that will force you to change. You’ve even encountered those now. You know them—the people who told you that you only could be one version of yourself: the athlete, the nerd, the fine arts kid, the loner, the stoner or something un-unique to you. I’ve done it myself; I’ve tried to change in order to be like a chameleon and fit the situation I’m a part of—including during my time at Antioch Community High School. The more you’re willing to change yourself, the less you’re going to be fulfilled, and the less you’re going to like yourself. The person you are—the one who wants nothing more than to be loved and to be happy—that’s the person who doesn’t need to grow up and the person who will be wildly successful as a result. Accept yourself—it’s pretty awesome when you do.

Find something to believe in and passionately fight for it. It doesn’t matter what it is you believe in, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy journey toward getting people to believe in it with you. But what will matter is that you chose to believe, and that you chose to fight for something. And when all else fails and you’ve grown as old as your mind, body and soul allow you to, people won’t look back and remember you for the little wonders you may have left behind; instead, they’ll remember you because you chose to believe in someone, something, someplace, or some idea. And what you chose to stand behind is the legacy that will last forever—a legacy that will eternally be unique to you and will never grow up—nor will it ever grow old.

To you, a class I’ve been so fortunate to grow older with, I hope you are able to imagine nothing less than greatness and strive only for absolute excellence in your future endeavors. Go forth and set the world on fire, because you, the graduating class of 2018, will truly be the difference we need in this world. Just remember: you can’t avoid getting older, but you can choose to never grow up.