One of my favorite memories is when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002. That evening their broadcast voice, Gene Deckerhoff (who also voices the broadcasts for Florida State), said “it took 27 years to get here, it took 60 minutes to bring home the trophy.” I paraphrased that in my mind when I was awarded my Bachelor’s Degree by Georgia Southwestern State University on December 8, 2017 – it took 25 years to get here, it took 120 minutes to bring home the sheepskin.
Twenty five years. That’s a long time to take to get one’s education. Instead of it being the result of dogged determination, this was more a tale of stutter-starts, foolish ventures, lost ways, and hubris run amok. My story was not inspiring at all. At one point, I ran away, then I started, made some dramatic mistakes (some of which nearly cost me everything), rebounded, restarted, failed again, restarted, failed again, and finally just said “to hell with it, I’m finishing” and allowed for zero distractions. At that moment, graduation was just a matter of time, the wire-to-wire effort of 2017 in which I took three consecutive Spanish classes, doing whatever it took, to get the job done.
This story should never be taken as an inspiring one. Rather than words of wisdom ringing in inspirational fashion as those from Chancellor Emer. Steven Portch, my words should read more as a cautionary tale. That being said, here are some of my own words of wisdom not to GSW grads – you’ll hear enough of those – but rather to the students of GSW, 25 statements representing 25 lessons learned over 25 years.
Release that heartbreak you hold – it will only serve to distract and destroy.
Care for something weaker than you are – you learn how to care for yourself when you aren’t as strong as you should be.
Faith should be used in concert with reason, not used to oppose it.
Achievement is only as good as the lack of burnout which follows it.
If you are so busy you forget your family and closest friends, you’re too busy.
Learn to balance your bank account – it will teach you how to balance your life.
Obsessing over a lack of debt will lead to more of it – accept what you have and chip away at it just a little each day.
Having a hero is good, but turning that hero into an idol ensures they will, one day, fall.
Find a “sweet spot” in your life and touch it every day somehow.
Eat that cheesesteak or cheesecake you always wanted.
If you can read and aren’t afraid to get your hands a little dirty, you will never go hungry because you can read a recipe and cook.
Say what’s in your heart, even if it costs you a friendship – regret is a poison which will one day kill you.
The heart is a fundamentally defective organ; it breaks too easy, loves too much, and never heals right.
That being said, trust your heart more than your brain – the brain is the most selfish organ in the body, while the heart is the most selfless.
Say “I love you” even when it’s dangerous – it’s the best way to truly live on the edge.
Know when to walk away, regardless of the cost.
Believing in yourself only requires knowing, and enforcing, your personal boundaries.
Faith allows us to one thing really well, the impossible.
We are all prejudiced in some way, being aware of it allows us to be better in spite of it.
Research before writing a response.
Take the extra time to find the best price for anything, even a gallon of milk.
The little things are what matter most because neglecting them affects the big things.
Instead of trying to fit in, stand out and be noticed.
Conformity is vastly overrated.
And finally… Forgive those who hurt you or broke your heart – their life is not yours to worry about.
Yes, I’m aware many of these pieces of wisdom may be mere platitudes but, when you think about them, they do make sense. I hope it takes you all far less time to understand them than it took me. Thank you, Georgia Southwestern, for the memories and a special thanks to The Sou’Wester for helping me learning many of these things, and most important of all, how to say “good bye.”