To all the young men and women who are graduating high school this week — congratulations for a job well done. This is the first step of your life which will lead to you becoming an individual on your own. This is one of life‘s great transitions — leaving the nest of your youth and your home and forging a path on your own. The responsibility for your success has shifted from your parents to fully on you. Please honor them with effort, maturity, and grace. Your parents, their friends, and us strangers expect this of you.

Take this advice from someone whose high school’s memories are faded and gray. Life is long and the past and future become entangled in unforeseen ways. The easiest way through and to keep things straight is to adhere to some basic life principles:

Work hard — There is nothing in life more rewarding or more self-satisfying than hard work. Roll up your sleeves and burn your youthful hours in any endeavor you fatefully stumble on. 

Be Honest — There will be multiple life situations coming up which will test your moral fortitude. You will be tempted with short-term financial or personal gains to cut corners, be deceptive, or participate in something less than honorable. Don’t do it! The person that you have to look at every morning in the mirror will know exactly what you’ve done and you will never have true peace.

Marry well — This, by far, is the biggest decision you will make. Life is a rough and tough experience with many high highs and low lows. Having a rock solid companion to support you when you’re down and keep you grounded when you’re up is critical. Choosing the wrong person makes life 10 times harder. Choosing the right person makes life 10 times easier. I don’t want to mislead you here and imply a good marriage is easy, it’s not. It takes work, commitment and patience. But, sharing life with the right person is bliss. 

Smell the roses — God gave us the abundance of life and all of its beauty and majesty. Explore it fully and look at every single square inch on your way — it is amazing. You have been given five senses: touch, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting. Each and every day starts with a cornucopia of unlimited fulfillment of these senses. It is life’s most precious gift and the one you should embrace and be most grateful.

Understand failure — This is difficult to explain, but I define it as not achieving your immediate goals. But remember, your immediate goals are only what you want at a particular time in your life. I learned a long time ago that some of the goals that I strongly coveted and achieved, turned out to be detrimental to me. Conversely, some of the goals that I failed at pushed me in an unintended direction which turned out to be the best for me. While this did not slow me down in setting big goals and working hard to achieve them, I gained appreciation for the results of my efforts either way. Failure doesn’t bother me because it could end up being great. I don’t glory in success because I’m not sure where it could eventually lead. My advice is to work really hard and accept what comes your way. 

So, for the class of 2019, congratulations again! I can tell you firsthand from a man who has enjoyed a great life that the most fun is the first 20 years from high school graduation to the age of 40. During this time, you’re going to start your careers or go to college, probably find a mate and marry, start a family and build a home of your own. Along the way you will find many great friends to share the abundance of this life’s experience. Keep your family close — you’re going to need them. God bless!

Randy Vaught, Milton

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