You are naturally going to think you are the greatest generation ever to walk the earth and that you will have all the answers, while being scared at the same time.
And before the night is over, someone is going to tell you, "welcome to the real world."
Just smile and ignore them.
You have been in the real world. It's just now you're going to find out how things such as an $8 per hour job doesn't cut it. The government will take a huge cut of your success, and all of those things your parents did for you - clothe, house, and feed you - are cool and expensive. They did it because of something called "unconditional love" that is unfortunately practiced in varying degrees. But as they say, that's life.
From your perspective, you'd better think you're the greatest generation ever because you shouldn't head into post high school life thinking you can't reach the skies, whether you're raising a family, pursuing a degree or a career or perhaps some lofty goal as curing cancer. It may or may not happen. But you've got to believe to achieve.
Those who have achieved the pinnacle of academic success in your class should be lauded. Nothing should be taken away from them. But you have done the same. And in most cases, you've given it your all. Keep doing that because success isn't always determined by a 4.0 grade point average, a school record for football or being the most popular student in 20 counties.
There are heroes among you who will serve this country in the military, who will give of their time to help struggling kids or lonely seniors, or who will simply approach others as you'd like to be treated. That is true heroics as opposed to being able to brag you were the star quarterback or head cheerleader. And while we're on the subject, don't make fun of star quarterbacks and head cheerleaders. They're pretty amazing people as well.
Money isn't everything, although it helps to survive and live. To understand this, think back to a time perhaps a bicycle or even a car that your parents bought you. You were probably all excited and said you'd take care of it but really didn't. Now think of the first bicycle or car that you bought with your own money. You had a different attitude, didn't you? Money, when it is handed to you, has a nasty tendency of undercutting virtues of hard work and responsibility.
Don't give in to darkness. No matter how much you think your life is in the toilet, it isn't. Think back to some "disaster" when you were in grade school. How horrible your life was and that you couldn't show your face. Seems pretty inconsequential now, doesn't it. The same is true of things that happen when you get older whether someone breaks your heart, you get rejected for college admission, you get fired or lose a leg. Time puts everything in perspective, so give yourself a chance.
Take pride in your vocation even if you don't pursue a college degree to do it. If you are a carpenter, be the best you can be. Your legacies will shelter generations to come just as much as those teachers who are successful will inspire generations to come as well. There is honor and worth in all honest work.
One generation won't save the world, just like one generation won't make the world free for democracy, free will and self-determination. It is an ongoing project that has a hefty price in blood, sweat and tears.
Yes, nothing is easy in life. But that is good because if you have to work at it, you tend to appreciate it more just like that first car you bought.
And contrary to what everyone tells you or what you may want to believe, attitude is everything.
If you don't think so, consider this: Ever notice how the "Wedding March" and "Funeral Dirge" sound alike? Go ahead, do "dah, dah, dah, da" and "daa, daa, daa, daa, daa, daa, daa, daa, daa, daa, daa" out loud. Chords sound familiar, don't they? But it is how it is played that makes the difference between joy and sorrow.
The same is true with life and everything you do. How you play it is what makes the difference.
So much for boring speeches. You've earned the right to celebrate. Go have some fun, but make sure you don't do anything too crazy or too stupid. A lot of people are counting on you to make a difference in the world, and you will, if you just give yourself a chance.
Now go out there and celebrate as part of the Class of 2012.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.