When I was preparing to graduate from high school, the last thing I wanted – the absolute last thing – was advice.

The months leading up to graduation had been filled with plenty of that. School counselors suddenly were interested in my welfare. Friends offered tips about which college they would pick and how they would go about finding more financial aid. Family members natually were interested, and quite communicative, about my future plans.

But I already knew what I was doing and where I was going, and I knew my plans were both foolproof and inspired.

So it is, I imagine, with the hundreds of neighborhood high school seniors graduating this month or next.

After all, you don’t live to the ripe old age of 18 without having a pretty good idea of what life is all about.

That’s not to say that those of us fortunate enough to have doubled, tripled or quadrupled our graduation ages don’t have something to say about how time and experience have taught us a thing or two about life – knowledge that would benefit our graduating brethren immensely.

We could expound on the virtues (and lack thereof) of money and job satisfaction and family relationships and loyalty and initiative and hard work. We could offer a roadmap for life not quite as direct as the ones our graduates have in their pockets, but one probably more efficient, painless and, in the long run, more likely to help them wind up where they want to be.

We could explain the importance of ignoring “the crowd” when it comes to making big decisions. We could tell them why selecting friends and associates is a critical task, one that for better or worse will shape almost everything that happens to them in life.

We could help them avoid needless pain and heartache by predicting with reasonable certainty which boyfriends and girlfriends are “keepers” and which will lead to agony and tears.

We could talk for hours about the best and worst ways to accomplish important tasks, and we could improve their ability to enjoy life more fully at every turn.

In short, the rest of us are uniquely qualified to give our graduating seniors authoritative, critical advice about the best way to live their lives.

If only they would listen.

But what self-respecting graduating seniors are going to listen to some over-the-hill has-beens? And even if we could get through to them about what tomorrow will bring to their lives, would they really believe us? Why should they: Don’t they already have all of the answers?

I knew someone like that once, too.


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