By the time this column runs, my oldest nephew, Emmitt Johnson, will have graduated from Elko High School. I’m traveling up there this weekend to celebrate the occasion.
It’s a surreal moment as it takes me back to that first surreal moment when my sister, Leanna, told me she was going to have a baby. Then he was born, and it blew my mind this little perfect human was created who has gone on to be his own independent person.
I’m excited to see how his life progresses from here — to see that little boy become a man. Totally surreal.
I know he’s going to be getting advice from family and friends, both welcome and unsolicited, both useful and harmful, but the truth is, he’s the only one who can chart his course.
I’ve been reflecting on the significance of high school graduation as the Dayton students I taught in Western Nevada College’s Jump Start program just graduated from both high school and college in recent weeks.
What do you tell these kids as they hit the first really big milestone of their lives in search of even greater and more grand adventures?
It’s easy to fall on old tropes of following their dreams and working hard to reach that elusive place we refer to as success.
But if my life has taught me anything, it’s there’s no universal advice that guarantees individual happiness. Each person has to follow his or her own guiding star.
I asked some people around town what their advice would be. It’s good, so I’m going to pass it along.
Linda Marrone, manager of the 3rd & Curry Streets Farmers Market, who graduated from high school in 1966, said it’s OK to buck tradition.
“Everyone doesn’t need to go to college right after high school,” she said. “Be open to possibilities. Make sure whatever you do with your life is not just a career, follow your passion. I didn’t get my dream job of managing the farmers market until I was 58.”
Rachael Schneider, information management officer for Carson City and 2005 Capital Christian High School graduate, warned students against making her same mistakes.
“If you think you need a break, you don’t,” she said. “It took me eight years to get a four-year degree, so keep going, keep trying.”
Kristie Marano is in town for the summer after graduating from the University of Mississippi this year. She will be leaving in August for graduate school at the University of Amsterdam.
She encouraged graduates to be courageous.
“Don’t be afraid to experience new things and to challenge your politics or religious beliefs,” she said. “It’s time for you to become your own person.”
Whether for college or travel, she said, it’s important to leave home.
“Go somewhere else and experience something different,” she advised. “There’s literally a whole world out there.”
I agree. There’s a whole world out there. Go and find your own way through it.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.