As many of you know, the Buckhannon-Upshur Class of 2021 recently graduated and though I doubt any of those young grads routinely follow my column, I know that some of their parents and grandparents do. I hope you will share this with them as well as find a bit of wisdom in it for yourselves.
Like most of you, yes, I too am a B-U alum—Class of 2011 to be exact. Yes, that does mean we will celebrate our 10-year reunion this year. Yes, that does make me feel old. Why so many questions!?
Seriously though, one thing I learned in high school was to refrain from using clichés in my writing. I plan to break that rule today. In fact, I plan to break it three times as I share with you the three clichés I’ve found to have the most truth and which have provided the most guidance in my life—“things I wish I’d known when I graduated” if you will.
First, “put your best foot forward,” though doubtless there will be times neither foot looks too promising. What this cliché means to me is to always make an effort to present yourself in a positive way. When you interview for a job, shave your whiskers, fix your hair, and dress nice. No one was ever denied a job on the basis of being overdressed. That car you’re taking to the dealership to trade-in? Give it a good wash first. The dealership doesn’t want to buy a dirty vehicle from you any more than you want to buy a dirty one from them. Mow your grass, clean your shoes, iron your clothes. You may not always have the most skill, the most intellect, or the most money, but when you present yourself with tidiness, manners, and character, when you put your best foot forward, success will certainly come your way.
Next, “don’t cry over spilt milk”—and trust me, you’ll spill a few hundred gallons in a lifetime. I’ve found in my life that some of the times that seemed the darkest, bleakest, and most helpless turned out later not to be so bad after all. We can be quick to expect the worse, to wallow in self-pity, and to cry “woe is me,” but just as quickly our problems can fade and our situation begin to look brighter. As time goes on, the worst trials of a year ago will seem only like a drop of spilt milk.
Lastly, and I think most importantly, “don’t burn bridges.” And if you have a quick temper and a stubborn streak like I do, then you already have a pocketful of matches—but resist the urge. Impulsive moves are almost always misguided and often mistakes, and just as frequently they are difficult to take back. Don’t make rash decisions about people, opportunities, or agreements, for you will certainly come to regret them. The people you cast out of your life today may be desperately needed by you tomorrow—and they are not likely to come back. The opportunity you passed by as beneath you will be seized upon before you think better of it. And the agreement you too quickly dismissed may be off the table by the time you realize it’s your best (or only) option.
Take these three lessons to heart and I believe you’ll prove them over and over as have I. And don’t forget to plop down on a porch swing and sit a spell from time to time. You just might learn something. Congratulations grads—and best wishes!