I found this copy of a newspaper column I wrote for my high school paper a week before graduation. Oddly enough, what I wrote to my peers a year ago is exactly what I needed to be reminded of now. Funny how that works. This was from the perspective of "before", of someone who was excited and optimistic about college, freedom, adulthood. Now, reading it from the perspective of "after", all I can say is that I wish I knew now what I knew then.
Every little girl knows the story of Cinderella. A beautiful but ill fated girl grows up living a hard and mostly cruel life. She is oppressed by the lazy, worldly and spiteful. To this, we all can relate in some way or another. Life is full of trials and at some point we all ask, “why me?”
Still, though, everyone looks forward to the magic. That moment when we least expect it for our fairy god mother to pop up out of nowhere and offer us a free ticket out of our suffering. The glorious instant when our Prince Charming, our saving grace, steps up and presents us with the opportunity to experience three magic words: “Happily ever after.”
Cinderella caught a nice break. She had a rough start but an undeniably great finish. On the other hand, she was stuck waiting. Instead of stepping up and going out and getting her man she let herself be walked all over by jerks until all the forces of the universe miraculously came together to make her happy.
Reality would frown on this fairy tale, because sadly, life is not so perfect. It cannot be divided simply into segments of bad, good, better, and best.
Life is muddy. It is messy too. And no matter what we all wish for, no one is going to hand us a happy and easy life.
The past four years, seniors have lived in a way that could be compared to Cinderella’s (sans the talking mice and pumpkin cars).
We have worked hard through the ups and downs thrown at us by teachers, parents, and life in general. There were moments when everyone but us got everything we wanted, and at the point when we were about to give up, the lure of a happy ending was dangled tauntingly in front of us.
Graduation. We can almost taste it.
Unfortunately, our story doesn’t end the second that diploma hits our hot little hands.
Unlike Cinderella, we live on. The story of our lives doesn’t end, just the chapter. And the best part is, we get to write it. Fate will not control us; we are in charge of our happy ending.
Who knows where we will be in ten years? I don’t. I have hopes, of course, but there’s a lot of life to live between now and then.
Some of us are entering the real world with a plan, an outline of what’s next in our story; others are making it up as they go.
My advice to all is the same as Abraham Lincoln’s: “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
And don’t forget, no book is endless. Robert Fulghum said this: "I’ve never understood people’s attitude about life. Just once, when someone calls and says, ‘My doctor just told me I have a limited time to live,’ I’d like to say, ‘You didn’t know?’"
So make the most of every moment. Live fully. Not fast or fabulous, but completely.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people, and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
So, as you embark on a new chapter, aim to succeed! And when you walk next Thursday night remember Winston Churchill’s words, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”