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Faith Wood“And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here,” author Neil Gaiman wrote.

I’ve been enjoying all the pictures of grad celebrations popping up on social media lately. It’s graduation time – spirits are high and the winds of change are strong.

Soon enough, high school students will be wondering what the future holds.

For some of you, university or college is the immediate plan. For others, a full- or part-time job is on the agenda, even if only for a year or so.

Given the high degree of uncertainty about the next few years – okay, the high degree of uncertainty about life in general – here are a few tips to help you retain at least a semblance of sanity as you look to your future.

You’re not alone if you don’t know what you want to do. Many of your peers and a lot of older people, too, are in the same boat. In order to narrow the search of where you want your life’s path to lead, pursue your passions (unless, of course, your passion is to be a high-end art thief – that could cause issues).

You need to experience as many things as you can to find out what you’re passionate about. So yes, that six-month backpacking trip around Europe, the summer wakeboarding camp or even the job as an attendant are valuable experiences.

Volunteering is also a great way to gain skills and could help you decide what you enjoy – not to mention that it looks pretty good on a resume.

Craft big dreams and be prepared to give up some things to get where you want to be.

Save, save, save your money and be wise with the purchases you do make. Most goals will entail a certain amount of funding, be it tuition or business startup costs, and you’ll need to have your finances in order.

You’ll probably have to accept that at this stage in life you really don’t need a Lamborghini or a Ferrari to get around – and the money could be put to better purposes.

Say no to the credit card or be disciplined about paying it off each month. Despite what you may have heard, a credit card is not free money.

Keep a positive attitude. Rather than saying, “I can’t,” say “I choose not to put all my time and energy into this.”

Admittedly, life can really throw you off stride. It’s okay to occasionally wallow in self-pity for a short period. A good wallow never really hurt anyone. But you have to know when to pull yourself out of it and continue on.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations – whatever you believe those expectations to be. That’s truly the road to unhappiness.

Take into account what your family and friends have to say and the advice they have to give. Evaluate it and apply it to your life if it fits. If not, appreciate that the people who love you only want the best for you. But that doesn’t mean you always have to agree with them.

Asking your parents for advice is not a sign of weakness. It demonstrates your good sense when you run into an unfamiliar situation (and it helps your parents feel appreciated for their wit and wisdom).

Cherish the moment. Each time of life is unique. Don’t get so busy trying to get ahead that you miss what’s important right now. You don’t want to get to age 95, look back and think, “I wish I had appreciated that at the time,” or “I missed so much and now it’s too late.”

Poet Ralph Emerson Waldo once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. I believe that no one would sleep that night. We would gather together in awe. Since those stars do come out each night, we take them for granted and sit and watch television. I hope you won’t let your dreams fall victim to this same complacency.

With high school behind you, you’re free to create your world, to determine your path through life. Your journey may be off the beaten path or it may be just what you and everyone else thought would happen – but it’s all yours.


Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

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