• Long Beach Breeze

High school grads, there’s a big world to discover!

By Toni Miles

The good news - you’ve done it, grads! Congrats.

Now, you have your whole life ahead of you, with new decisions to make at almost every turn. Some of these decisions will be life-affecting on all the major fronts of your life. The decisions you make during this season of your life will ultimately lead you to your career, possibly into various job fields over the course of your life, and possibly to whom you will wind up marrying and who your children will be - not to mention the financial means by which you will live.

A LOT of pressure, right?

I was there once, years ago, and I have the unseen bumps, bruises and battle scars to prove it. Fortunately, I’ve learned a few things along the way that may help you. Maybe not. I know I myself didn’t listen to all the wise counsel I was given during these formative and exciting years of life. Hopefully (and likely) you’re smarter than I was, and will find at least some value in these thoughts I share with you.

Horseback riding in Hawaii
Horseback riding in Hawaii

First and foremost - stay true to yourself, your authentic self, the parts of you even your parents and best friends might not know. Each of us is made uniquely. Embrace this. Share it. The world needs it. Carve your own path in life, uniquely created and made just for you.

How do you know what this path is? Glad you asked. This leads to number two - follow your passion, your heart. There will be naysayers along the way. Some of them will be well-intending and closest to you, but your passion indicates your purpose in life, no matter how “crazy” it may seem.

Before I even began kindergarten, I knew what I wanted to be - a TV journalist, which I was for more than twenty years (and now I have switched back to my first love - print journalist, one of the career change possibilities I referenced earlier). I remember the excitement I felt over watching TV news, and how I was over the moon and full of questions (good trait for a wanna-be reporter) when a real, in-the-flesh TV news reporter from the local station came to visit my second-grade class.

At the Golden Gate Bridge
At the Golden Gate Bridge

Plenty of people, even those closest to me, discouraged this, pointing out that the odds (truly) were stacked against me. I’m glad I went with my heart. Yes, the struggle was real. I lives off cans of green beans and potatoes, which were 33 cents when I started out (and I was dozens of pounds lighter), but the short-term sacrifices were worth it in the long run. I’m a firm believer the money will come when you follow your passion and connect to your purpose.

Before you embark on your career of choice and finish college (if this is the path you choose) - or even if you go straight into the work force and get vacation time - GO. This is the time of your life when you won’t likely be “saddled” with responsibilities that will keep you from traveling, especially places around the world.

A college professor advised me my freshman year to travel as much as possible. Travel broke, if you have to (have the means to get back home, of course). You want to go to Rome - do it. Save up money from your side or summer job, and just GO. I did (not long after I got out of college, anyway).

Traveling, especially outside of the U.S. and overseas to Europe, opened a vast, new, amazing world I can’t imagine having never discovered. If you can be part of an exchange program, my suggestion would be to jump on it. The world is made up of a kaleidoscope of people beyond the 39560 zip code, and meeting, living in and experiencing the cultures of others enhances your life and understanding of this big world we live in.

At the French Riviera
At the French Riviera

Strike a balance. Find time for rest and recreation, but make sure you do the best you can and put in the effort required, no matter what you choose to do.

Also, be careful who you choose as friends. We truly do, knowing or not, become a reflection of those we keep in our inner circle. Choose wisely. People, over time, should earn your trust and be supportive, positive, encouragers and good influences. You’ve likely seen or read stories about how one stupid decision in a young person’s life turned his or her world, reputation and future upside-down. This is the day of social media, selfies and cell phones. You never know who is watching, so live upright and transparently.

And lastly, have faith. If you are a person of faith, hold tight to that faith. It’s the one thing that will never leave you, if you cling closely to it. There is something to the law of attraction - where our mind leads, our lives shall follow. I can tell you first-hand, and, believe me, I’ve faced some tough trials in life and made some not-so-smart decisions more than once or twice, but it does end up all working out alright.

Go for the gusto, while you are still young. Shoot for the stars.

And remember, you can always find your way back home.

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