A message for the Darlington County Class of 2021
By Stephan Drew
Recently, our schools held their graduation exercises. After a year and a half of COVID, chaos and confusion, the seniors who received their diplomas certainly earned them. They experienced things that students haven’t had to deal with in over 100 years – classes impeded by a pandemic of massive proportions. To those of you who soldiered through and kept your grades up, I applaud you. You are exceptional! There are some very helpful lessons your teachers may not have had time to discuss with you. If they didn’t, these little bits of advice may be new to you. If you’ve heard them before, it won’t hurt to refresh yourself. So, before you abandon your books and go out into the world, I would like to pass on a few things I’ve learned since I finished high school: 1. Your graduation does not mark the end of learning. The word “commencement” means “a beginning.” You have just started to learn the true life lessons that will carry you through to the end of your days. What you do and what you learn from now on will shape your life in ways you may not even be able to imagine at this moment. Most of the experiences and problems you will have weren’t covered in your textbooks. How you handle them will define who you are as a person. So, you really need to be as prepared as possible for whatever life may throw at you. 2. Don’t ever be afraid to fail. No one wins 100 percent of the time. Every successful person has had numerous failures. They not only build character, they teach us what NOT to do in the future. Learn from your failures but don’t let them define you. You may stumble frequently but what defines you as a success is the fact that you don’t stay down there. Keep trying to reach for the stars but don’t ever get upset if you fall. Pick yourself up and try again. Thomas Edison failed 999 times before he invented a successful light bulb. Who recalls his failures? No one. But the whole world remembers his success. Remember, you can never really appreciate the magnificent view from the top of the mountain if you’ve never spent any hard time in the dismal valley. 3. Make sure you have dreams and goals and write them down. Your dream is where you want to end up. Your goals are how you go about achieving that. When you write it down, it gains life and becomes real, similar to making a commitment. Like a constant reminder, you’ll see it every day and you can gauge whether or not you’re nearing your goal. Re-evaluate your goals and dreams frequently. 4. Find something you like to do. Most people don’t love their jobs. They work just to get a paycheck. Don’t let that be you. It’s great to get a college degree, make a fortune and live well. But, if you’re not happy, what good is all that money? You can’t take it with you when you leave this world. There are no rich men and women in the afterlife. You can’t buy your way in. Everyone is there WITHOUT their money. Whatever you love the most, find a way to make that profitable and you’ll be happy to go to work and have fun every day. You’ll have a piece of Heaven right here on Earth. 5. Don’t let any accolades define you. You may have 20 degrees or a whole alphabet of letters after your name. But, if you are just a person with a degree, you haven’t achieved much. A degree signifies that you have acquired a bit of knowledge. Unfortunately, knowledge and wisdom are two very different things. It’s like buying a new car. Yes, it’s a nice car, and a wonderful accomplishment. But where are you going to GO, and what are you going to DO with it? Don’t rest on your laurels. Put them to use and make a better world for humankind. 6. Have fun. I don’t mean for you to be foolish or go crazy. You have spent 12 years in school. Celebrate and enjoy yourself. You’ve earned it. Go to the beach, the mountains or anywhere just to get away for a week or two. But, remember, when you get back, your REAL work truly begins. You’ve accomplished a great thing during a very difficult time. That deserves applause. However, there will be many more and greater things to accomplish down the line. Keep some strength in reserve for those future battles. There’s not really much more to say except “CONGRATULATIONS!” You have crossed a major milestone in life. Just remember, there will be more (and much more difficult) milestones in the years to come. You are the next generation. You have the ability to change the world. Change it for the better. The ball has been passed to you. It has been protected, carried and passed from generation to generation for thousands of years. Don’t let your class be the ones to drop it. I know it’s a big responsibility but you can do it. Every generation before you had doubts. Yours are not new. What is new is your ideas, dreams and goals. Work hard and fulfill them. Live your dreams. Take the chance. Climb that mountain. Close your eyes, grit your teeth and jump the hurdles before you. They’re not even that high. You’ve got this, Class of 2021. We’re all so proud of you!