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OPINION | LET'S TALK: Class of '21 — Wise words for good life

by Helaine Williams | May 2, 2021 at 1:56 a.m.

An early note to 2021 graduates, high school and college:

Congratulations! You have completed an education whose twilight months took a turn nobody could have imagined. A year and two months after the covid-19 pandemic turned our society into a number of the science fiction/disaster movies we all once viewed in comfort and detachment, you are emerging from the flames, smartly attired in cap and gown to receive your hard-earned diploma. (High schoolers: It was really nice to scroll through Facebook and see prom pictures again! To those of you who were deprived of prom in 2020: Have any of you re-gathered for a one-year reunion/"lost prom" event?)

Just a few thoughts and words of advice as you pose for graduation photos, cut the cake, open gifts, write those thank you notes (I hope) and party:

Know that adulthood is certainly not about being perfect. Adults can make the same mistakes over and over again, especially out of fear/panic. And yes, we can do the same thing over and over expecting different results. As we've proved on many occasions that have made it into today's headlines, we can be quite, quite childish. Your 20s will be a real trial-and-error decade. The awkwardness won't automatically vanish and heck, the acne may not do so either! As I've often said in this space in reference to Yours Truly's expectations of adulthood versus its reality, the chasm between the two could be much wider than you dreamed. It's all about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, learning from your mistakes and keeping in mind that the journey, not just the destination, has value.

I can't emphasize more the importance of the spirit of cooperation and the need to pull some variation (hopefully leaving your life intact, though) of a Mr. Spock/"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" move once in a while when warranted — you know, that whole "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)" thing. (Uh, what do you mean, you have no idea what Star Trek movie I'm talking about? Go fetch it from your online source of choice and give it a look-see.)

"Them" can all too easily and quickly become "you" ... both in terms of any negative/undesirable light in which you might see "them" — or misfortunes they may be suffering and for which you, having been spared so far, have mumbled an intention to keep "them" in your thoughts and prayers.

Sometimes you need to fight for justice and fairness. Sometimes you need to just accept that life will be unfair (in your favor or in the other person's). The aforementioned headlines could make it easy for you to decide whether you need to fight or whether you need to accept, but there are times when, and situations where, that decision will be more difficult to make. You'll need to invest some time and thought into each case.

I hope you took extra-special care to consider your career options. You need to make sure you have not just the skills/training but the emotional intelligence, the patience, the fortitude, the understanding, the roll-with-the-punchiness and, especially when dealing with people, compassion to successfully do the job. I know it seems cray-cray to say this in light of the effect of covid-19 on the economy in general, jobs in particular and the ails of student-loan debt, but here goes: Keep your mind open to doing something you didn't study for and may not make the big bucks for — but may just be the occupation that captures your heart and your spirit.

As you pursue your goals and go about the business of being a good citizen, don't let yourself be taken down by Weapons of Mass Distraction ... whether those distractions are the stupid click-bait pictures at the bottom/side of the website you're on or phantom causes that are of no benefit to anyone. Choose your battles wisely, and whatever your political or ideological affiliation, make it known what you are for, not just what you are against. And please think long and hard before making permanent choices in trying to deal with temporary problems.

Never again allow yourself to have to be forced, by a global pandemic or some other cataclysmic occurrence, to at least slow down and smell the roses. Do that on a regular basis.

Some nuggets of parting admonition and advice: Wear the mask in areas and establishments that ask you to. Give the F-word a rest; it's been sadly overused lately. If you win an award for anything, there's no need to thank your parents for the act they performed that led to your conception. (Here's hoping April 25 Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya, whose mother was in open-mouthed shock at her son's thank-you remark, still has teeth in his mouth.) Watch those "hot mics." And no, you don't need a new iPhone every year.

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