Today marks the last day of the Spring Session here at B2A, but more importantly, this is the final weekend of the school year, and soon you all will be off to travels abroad, to research programs statewide and nationwide, to debate camps, and well, to one of the classrooms down the hall, hanging out with us for summer test prep.
For you seniors who will be donning your caps and gowns, your tassels and whatever other strings they attach to IB and AP whizkids, be proud that you made it through four years of high school and now are ready to begin the next stage of your lives. It’s easy to get lost in the platitudes and bromides that come with finishing one thing and starting another. A door closed. A window opened. A Netflix show binge-watched. But there has always been one cliché statement that I’ve found useful, even for someone whose high school graduation has long lost the seal of its resplendent packaging:
Be true to yourself.
It’s an obvious statement, but obvious statements don’t always lend their obvious wisdom to us during moments when we need that wisdom most. Instead, it seems that obvious ideas begin to fade when the going gets tough, and once the going is very tough, all that crackerjack wisdom we’ve stored in some part of our brains, along with lectures on brushing our teeth and conserving water, disappear completely. We’re left with ourselves--and only ourselves--in a pitch black that seems so foreign to us after living in a world that once felt like a banquet that would go on forever. If there are any platitudes to remember, then it’s this one:
Be true to yourself.
In some ways, it is an abstract statement, or one that’s so “no duh” that it doesn’t even register on the crucial scale. But a person, for better or worse, is more than a brain floating through space, than a body hurling from one caffeine-fueled study session to another. The long influence of everyone around you, of friends and family, of teachers and counselors, of coaches and test-prep bloggers (*ahem*), shape you in more ways than you’ll know. They're your entourage, and maybe it’s not a presidential one filled with guys wearing black suits and aviator sunglasses, but it’s just as important.
You and your entourage usually have the same expectations for the course of your life, or these expectations align enough for smooth sailing. You are working (and everyone else is helping you) to become a brain surgeon, or a music industry lawyer, or a child psychiatrist, or a digital video artist. But there are also those other times when the entourage is on-call, not present, or when they pressure you to act one way when your toes are tapping in another. The specifics right now aren’t important; what’s important is that you acknowledge the tiny voice, the vague pulse, the faint magic of the self, and that when you’re pulled in a direction that feels wrong, it will sound the alarms.
Listen to that voice, that little hammering of the heart, that amorphous energy that steers you. You may not be leaping over mountains to honor its requests, but even the subtle shifts in how you approach your life can make mountains of a difference.
Be true to yourself. That’s not to say you need to outright brawl your parents over career choices. I don’t want to be a doctor; I want to be an FBI agent! And it doesn’t mean you should pick a fight with anyone who offers their two cents. I got this under control; don’t kill my vibe! It means that as much as advice and influence are useful for developing us into the people we become and for highlighting what has always been inside of us, these things should not crowd the pristine real estate of the self.
You will have many ideas of what you want to be when you arrive at college. For some of you, those ideas will only be reaffirmed and you’ll nurture this chosen path to the future. For others, the fading influence of your high school entourage, the redevelopment of who’s present in your life, will provide new perspectives. Be open to the new, the different, and see how these things resonant with who you are.
The line to success, to happiness, to all those qualities that fall underneath the “positive nouns” category of your 8th grade English teacher’s “better writing” poster, is a lot more erratic than some may like to admit. Your time at college and beyond is not the slow compiling of a successful and happy individual; it is the erratic ups and downs that go with being a person. (Maybe you recall a similar progress from when you took those pesky SAT and ACT exams.) The road is not easy, and it is going to get a lot harder. Maybe not hard like you need to study until three in the morning with only four hours of sleep from the previous night, but hard in that you will have to recognize how you will want to make your mark, however large or small, on the world.
And what keeps the line, that standard plot graph of your career, your progression as an individual, from flying onto a whole other chart, from disintegrating before your very eyes? That little voice, that call from the most essential part of who you are. Listen to it.
Be true to yourself.