This has been a strange time of life with a world-wide pandemic, businesses closing, schools transitioning to online classrooms, and social distancing becoming part of our vernacular. One segment of our population who will carry this snapshot in time with them for life are our graduating seniors. They will forever look back on their class of 2020 as a time when everything they knew and expected changed seemingly overnight. Whether they are graduating from high school or college, trade school or graduate school, they have already been given a unique gift of a reset button. Maybe they didn’t think to ask for it or even want it at all, but what they do with it moving forward will determine the character and strength of each individual student, and collectively all of us.
With that challenge, the Class of 2020 alums are being sent love and prayers from everyone who has fond memories of walking across that platform to receive their own diploma or accomplishing whatever milestone they worked hard to achieve.
Reflecting back on my own high school graduation 10 or so (38 actually) years ago, I realize the journey I've been on has had me striving to “Live A Life With Meaning” all these years. Given that, here is my best advice in the form of a list on not just surviving, but actually thriving in this next chapter of life. The beautiful thing about lists like this is that they serve as a reminder that you can start anew at any time, at any age. You just have to be intentional with the choices you make every day.
✨Be kind to everyone along the way; there’s just no reason not to be. Period.
✨Find joy in the journey of getting to your future. That means this moment and the next moment and so on. That’s where all the really meaningful stuff happens - along the way between now and your ultimate destination - don’t miss it! Your struggles and hardships will be even more meaningful when you get to the other side of them because of what you will have learned about yourself and others through the process.
✨Keep your integrity intact. You’ll face many temptations to take a shortcut, but you are in control of your decisions one by one. They add up to show the world your ethics and values.
✨Work hard at everything you do, not for anyone else to notice (even though they will), but for you to be able to sleep peacefully and without regret every night.
✨Give thanks. Every. Single. Day. You didn’t get here by yourself, so have a grateful heart and take the time to say thank you to every person who helps you at every step. Have an attitude of gratitude always. Start by showing a special thanks to your teachers who have impacted you in a positive way, have challenged you to be better, have been a kind presence in your life, have put up with you on your worst days, and have never lost faith in you discovering your best days.
✨Give back when you can, in big ways and in small ways. It is our responsibility (you and me) to help care for others, especially the most vulnerable. Sacrifice and serve. Be generous without expecting anything in return. The good news is you can start doing that today if you haven’t already. Donate your time, your talents, your money, your voice - whatever speaks to your heart, listen and act on it.
✨Laugh at yourself frequently. A sense of humor gets you through life, but I'm not talking about laughing at the expense of others. Most everyone is well intentioned, but who among us hasn't done something silly or embarrassing. Own it. Be the first one to laugh at yourself and the absurdity of it, learn from it and then move on. Once others know you don’t take yourself so seriously you’ll become so much more relatable and authentic. And who doesn’t want to be friends with someone like that?
✨Keep asking questions, respectfully. That’s how we learn, that’s how we grow, that’s how we improve every aspect of life. Don’t ever stop being curious and trying to understand where someone else is coming from, what drives another’s actions, how things have been done and why things are the way they are. By continuing the conversation with respect we can make progress toward finding new ways of thinking and doing.
✨Always believe that one person can change the world. You can be the difference maker, whether that be for one person, a family/friend group, an entire community or the world. That change starts within your own heart. Be intentional about living a life with meaning and do something daily that’s been outlined here. The world needs more of you and what you can bring to the table. And if one person can make a difference, together we can be unstoppable. We are all gifted in unique and special ways, so don’t compare your gifts to another in a jealous fashion, but rather learn to appreciate and celebrate another’s gifts because collectively it makes our world beautiful.
✨Seek guidance and wise counsel from those who know you best - your parents and grandparents, your teachers and mentors, but most importantly, God. He built you and planned for your future so lean into that and pray for wisdom and clarity.
What will be the legacy of the graduates from this year - and all of us who have been affected by 2020? What has been learned and what will be applied? It’s been a loss of a traditional year to be certain, but hopefully the biggest lesson has been that life can hand us the most unexpected situations and our ability to adapt and move beyond our circumstances is what strengthens us. So what is the homework assignment for everyone? Go and Live a Life With Meaning!
Tracey McLarney is Founder/Owner of Style With Meaning and "Live a Life With Meaning®" and can be reached at email@example.com
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