Exactly 20 years ago, I crossed that stage, too. Here’s what I wish someone had told me

The world you’re leaving has tried to be fair. The one you’re entering won’t bother

Graduation ceremonies for Vancouver Island high schools took place throughout last month.

Young faces, full of hope and zeal, took to the stage to be recognized and celebrated for just one of many accomplishments they are sure to achieve throughout their lives.

But before we send them out into the world to become the future leaders of our society, there are a few things I’d like them to know.

I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers, but since I have this little soapbox from which to speak, I’m going to take this opportunity to do so and share some of the wisdom I’ve gained in the exactly 20 years since I first walked across the stage as a member of the very first graduating class of Timberline Secondary School, right here in Campbell River.

Dear graduates;

Phew. What a load off, right?

Wrong. Sorry.

Some of you will head from that stage and continue on with your education by attending a post-secondary institution of some kind, and it will be significantly more difficult and stressful than what you’ve just completed.

Others will attend a trade school or program. They will find the same.

Even those of you who will go straight to the workforce in an attempt to climb the ladder of society with only your secondary education – a decision that will make things more difficult but certainly not unattainable – will struggle more in that endeavour than you ever did in the halls and classrooms you are about to leave.

But you can do these things. Trust me.

I’d like to help. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will make it easier as you go forward.

1.) The world is not fair.

The institution you are leaving – the school system – has done its best to treat you all the same. It may have not achieved it at every turn, but it has tried.

If you performed better than one of your classmates on a test, you got a better grade than they did.

If you ran faster than a competitor, you finished ahead of them in the race.

That is fair.

The world you are entering will not be trying to do that. It’s not designed that way.

There will be many, many times in your lives when you will work harder than someone else, perform more expertly than another and provide more benefit to the world than the person you are standing beside, yet that person will reap more rewards from their effort than you will from yours.

You will bring more benefit to a company than another person who is paid significantly more than you. You will be the first to cross the metaphorical finish line and yet not be declared the winner of the race. That is the reality of the world you are entering.

Do not let that reality determine how hard you try or how fast you run.

Because we do not run this race called life in order to get to the finish line first, after all.

Work hard because that’s what is necessary for the job to be accomplished. Then take pride in accomplishing the job.

2.) If you don’t like that the world is not fair, you can change that.

As I said above, you are the future leaders of this world. You are the ones who will be determining how our society moves forward (or backward, I suppose).

If it doesn’t sound right to you that someone makes more money than another, when the one making less does more work, find a way to change that dynamic.

3.) Be kind to each other.

The world will not move forward if we perpetuate hate, dishonesty and hostility.

Hate is regressive. Dishonesty forms distrust. Hostility closes off conversation and puts up walls that prevent dialogue. And dialogue is what leads to improvement. And improvement is what we need.

Help people up. You’d want someone to do it for you if you needed it, right? Okay. I’ve put down my megaphone and stepped down off my soapbox.

Now go out into the world and make it what you want it to be.

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