Congratulations! You did it! Whether you are going to a college or have decided that going into debt just isn’t for you, you have done an amazing thing: you have graduated from High School and you deserve to celebrate!

Over these next few months things are going to move quickly, change rapidly and, for some, the changes will be drastic. These changes will take place in you, your friends, your family, and it can be frightening. Change isn’t always a bad thing but there are many things I wish someone had taught me or explained to me when I was 18. Even though you are all in different seasons and places of life, these simple nuggets of wisdom will hopefully guide you along your next phase of life.

1. FRIENDS

It’s a shame, but it happens; some friends are not BFFL material…and that’s okay. During these next few months you’re going to notice that friends you thought would be around forever, and friends you spent your entire High School and maybe even last 18 years with, have moved on (or maybe you have). Whatever the case, it’s a natural phase of life. It doesn’t mean they hate you, don’t like you, etc. It simply means that life just took an unexpected turn. Some people are only meant to be in your life for a certain season. You’ll also meet new people who will be in your life for a season and some for life.

Remember this: Quality over Quantity. Being popular is overrated. It’s better to have two close friends you can share your entire life with, than a bunch of people who are only around to get something from you (or vice versa). One last thing concerning friends: There are going to be a lot of friends who you may not talk to often, but when you see each other again after a long time, you will more or less pick up right where you left off. I have best friends I don’t talk to for a month or more at a time. Unfortunately, it’s just part of life, but it doesn’t mean we are any less friends because of it. This is especially true for people who go to college far away from home.

2. TIME

I’m now 26.49 years old according to my recent trip to the doctor. I keep thinking about the things I wish I had spent time learning or investing in earlier. There’s some truth to that age-old saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.” So I’m telling you now, take advantage of the time you have now. Don’t waste time. Don’t sit around on social media browsing through your feed for an hour a day (Something I’m guilty of). Learn something new, even something you aren’t necessarily interested in. Meet someone new and learn his or her story (Facebook stalking is not learning someone’s story). Learn a new language or how to play an instrument. Even if you take 10-20 minutes a day to learn one new thing, in 4 years, you will have learned almost 1500 new things! Just don’t waste time. I promise you, with everything I have in me, you will certainly regret every second you wasted when you are older.

3. FINANCES

No one taught me how to do taxes, a budget, or that one day I would be in massive amounts of debt. Let me put things into perspective: I could buy a house and a decent car with the amount of debt I’m in (Yeah, it’s a lot). I have no clue how I will pay it off. I believed that God wanted me to take this path, so I did. People may not agree, but I believe God will provide for me (I just hope it’s sooner rather than later). I don’t recommend this to anyone, however I do recommend that everyone get some sort of schooling. It’s imperative that you get schooling for something you are interested in and something that won’t allow you to be 40 living with your parents. Life isn’t all about money, but the reality is that you need money to survive. So learn how to do taxes, learn how to do a budget, and learn how to invest. Trust me, the sooner you learn these things, the happier you’ll be in the future. I know it’s tough, but I certainly didn’t stick to a budget in college and now I’m kicking myself for it.

4. SOCIAL MEDIA

When I graduated, Myspace was still a fan-favorite and Facebook was on the horizon (because at the time, you still needed a college email address to sign-up). With the inventions of Twitter, Instagram, Smartphones, etc., the world is full of knowledge and stupid stuff. Let me be blatant for a second: Stop posting stupid stuff! I know it sounds harsh, but one day you’re going to go back to read a post and think why in the world did I say that?! (Trust me, I used a blog site called Xanga and I found my posts from when I was 16. I was an IDIOT!) So do yourself a couple of favors:

  1. If you want to post something controversial, don’t use 140 characters. Use a blog and please, research and back up your points with real facts. If you want to post your own opinion on things, that’s fine, but when someone who has done the research calls you out on your opinion, don’t be mad. It’s like when your parents or grandparents used to say, “If you don’t wear a jacket, and you get sick, don’t expect me to take care of you and don’t complain when you’re sick!”
  2. Bosses, teachers, and other important people can see your social media. You might not like it, but if you don’t like it then don’t use it and/or don’t be stupid with it. It’s really that simple. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you can complain your way out of something. That’s not the real world, sorry.
  3. Use social media for your benefit and if you are a Christian, use it to glorify God’s Kingdom. Use it to build up and encourage others. However…
  4. Stop posting articles from terrible sources! I’m so tired of seeing my feed with either fake or non-credible sources to back up some political or theological claim that people don’t truly understand. Please check your sources before you post them. And if you post a satirical page, make it known that you know it’s satire.
  5. Lastly, people online and the celebrities you yell at on Twitter are real people. How you treat people online is representative of your true character. I wouldn’t want to hire or invest my time in someone who only posts how stupid (or how [explicative] stupid) people are. Simply put: don’t be a coward and use your words wisely.

5. YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING

One of the greatest characteristics of successful people is the ability to be teachable. To learn. To grow. You don’t really know much when you graduate high school, and trust me, when you’re done with college you’ll realize you know even less than when you started…and that’s okay. It’s the ability to learn from your mistakes and not puff up when you’re wrong that will enable you to achieve your goals.

It doesn’t matter if you’re going to Harvard, Community College, or you are going to work at McDonald’s. You have the ability to succeed and pursue your dreams during these next few years. Your life begins now! Yes, a season is over, but five years from now you are going to look back and realize that it was after graduation that you really began pursuing the person God created you to be. Whether you are a Christian or not, I believe everyone is designed with certain dreams and passions. You were made to do something important but only you have the ability to pursue it. No one is going to take your hand and do it for you. You need to get motivated and begin taking small steps to achieve your goals today. Not tomorrow. Not when you step on campus. Begin today, right now, one small step at a time.

Success begins, continues, and ends with hard work, dedication, and the ability to be teachable. This past weekend I heard a great analogy from one of my friends: “Each day we get one brick. We can place that brick anywhere. When we look back 4 years from now, will we see something constructive, or will we just see scattered bricks everywhere?”

The choice is yours, High School Grads. Make the best of your life!

About Justin

Justin is a lifelong student who loves to speak, travel, film, write, and coach. He has a goal of empowering others to grow closer to Jesus in practical and unique ways. After acquiring two degrees in Practical Theology and then studying in Israel for two years, Justin has a passion to help people read the Bible with a deeper appreciation in its original, ancient context. He would not be where he is today without his incredible wife, Lauren! While he's a pastor at heart, he's also an avid pizza lover, metalcore listener, and shot glass collector.

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