And I realized that if I ever got to lead a school, particularly a middle school, that one thing I would be called on to do would be to deliver such a statement at graduation. 8th grade graduation is a bigger deal in some places than others, but if nothing else the chance to help guide kids into the next stage of their lives is reason enough for the pomp and circumstance.
So what would I say? I would say some things that I would have wanted to say all along. Things that needed to be said, but at a different place and time. Above all, it would be the truth...
You are about to begin the most important four years of your life.
You can't hide anymore. It's time to make a place for yourself in the world. It's time to be someone, anyone, unique and independent. It's time to make choices, lots of choices. Not just what classes to take, but life choices. It is time to decide who you are, and who you aren't. But not choosing isn't a choice; you can't sit on the sidelines of life anymore.
Here is a secret: High school is awesome. Being a young adult is awesome. And while there are bumps in the road, there isn't an adult here that wouldn't go back if they could. Sure, they might make some different choices. There are people that they would like to have never met, and pictures of themselves they might want to burn (Why did I ever wear that?), but the positives far outweigh the negatives. The bullies, the breakups, the bad hair days, and the drama always wouldn't be enough to stop us. We would go back because we know something that I am going to tell you right now.
The whole world is in front of you.
Nothing is out of bounds. There is no impossible. No doors are closed. You get to decide who you will be. You aren't too old, too tired, or too stuck in your ways. Life hasn't passed you by. It's about to say hello. The only limits you have are the ones you place on yourself. The only opportunities you will be denied are the ones you fail to take.
And it is more than just shaping your career. It is shaping everything that is you, and that you will become. You are creating the person that someday someone will marry, that someday will raise a family, and that someday will be asked to leave the world a little bit better than when you found it.
Kids are so anxious to grow up. There will be time for that later. Focus on who you want to be so you are happy when you get there. You all want so badly to be grown up and on your own. It's ironic, because when you do, and the real world gets a hold of you, you're change your mind. Kids want so badly to be adults, but secretly we envy the adventure you are about to begin. The thrill of choosing the path to take during your lifetime is one of the most exciting rides you will ever be on.
You can't hide anymore. These are the most important years of your life, and you only get one shot...