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Graduating from high school is both exciting and stressful.

I attended my niece’s high school graduation last week. She was part of a huge graduating class by my small-town standards. I was honored to be invited because she was only allowed a certain number of tickets for guests. She had to do some wheeling and dealing in order to procure an extra ticket for her dear old aunt.

The auditorium was packed with wall to wall people as I had expected. I was able to watch my niece walk across the stage thanks to a jumbo-tron suspended from the ceiling. There was no way to see the stage from our seats, but our support was what mattered to her. She was one of the happy graduates.

I was struck by the types of graduates I saw walking down the aisle both to and from their commencement seats. There were happy graduates. I could tell these young adults were proud of themselves for their accomplishments and excited for the future. There were the fearful graduates. I could tell by the horrified expressions that these graduates either had terrible stage fright or were nervous about what the future holds for them. Then there were the angry graduates. I don’t know what could possible have made them angry on such a happy occasion, but I’m guessing it probably had to do with either family or friend squabbles. Stress brings out the worst in some people.

Graduating from high school is an exciting, yet stressful time in a person’s life. Once you graduate from high school, you are free from required schooling. You can choose to further your education by attending trade school or college, which is what I did. You can join a branch of service, find adventure, launch right into the workforce, or any number of other things.

I asked my niece what her plans were for her future. My nephew admonished me that I had just asked the one off-limits question. I didn’t understand his vehemence at my question. He will be a senior next year and hasn’t yet decided the path of his future. As it turns out, my niece told me she has no definitive future plans. She actually finished her schooling at the end of the first semester, so she’s been working full time for six months or so. She plans to continue on that path for now.

Both my niece and nephew are talented young people who can accomplish anything upon which they set their minds. While this is a scary time in a young person’s life, it’s also exciting to finally be the master of your own destiny.

Looking back at my own high school graduation a few decades ago, I would change a few things along my path if I could go back and do it again. However, I wouldn’t change the knowledge and wisdom that I’ve gained from my adult years for anything in the world.

Congratulations, Class of 2018! You are going to be great!

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