North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

May 22, 2013

Danielle Cater: Life goals are set during graduation

By Danielle Cater
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — Many parents are breathing a sigh of relief this week as their teenager finally graduates from high school. It is during the next few months that these kids will be making life-altering decisions.

Some will decide to go ahead and marry their high school sweetheart while settling into the role of husband and wife. Others will blow out the summer and then head straight to college in order to further themselves and their future. And sadly, there are those who will find no direction and end up not working or going to school while living off of their parents until something more drastic than graduation takes place.

Growing up around our house, there was an understood rule that as soon as you graduated high school, you had better have a job lined up because our folks weren’t going to pay your way through life.

Apparently that was the best scenario we could have been thrown into because my siblings and I have all three turned out to be pretty decent people. I ended up getting a college degree in education; my brother has a solid job with the county and is going back to college to get a degree; and my sister has worked in education for the past 10 years and has made her mark as a wonderful mother and wife.

When I look back on my senior year of high school, it scares me more now than it did back then. Now I see how important every decision that I made was going to be. Picking a major in college and starting your first real job are things that have monumental effects on the rest of your life. But at the time, it just seems like the natural next step in life.

The important steps of choosing a career and spouse are basically thrown at these kids and I think we often forget that they are only 18 years old. Nothing drives that home harder than thinking of the young men and women who will start a military career when exiting high school. These kids aren’t old enough to buy alcohol or tobacco, but they are putting their lives on the line for our country and they are deciding to do so in their teenage years.

If I had a few words of advice that I could share with our graduating seniors, I would start off with the importance of having peace in the big decisions you are making these next few months. Make sure you have prayed about your future and that you know you are taking the steps that God is leading you in. That one piece of advice could stop you from needing any other advice in this area.

I would also recommend taking a long, hard look at college. Jumping right into a job is a fine option, but throughout your life, jobs will come and go and you will need that education to fall back on.

If you are not interested in starting a family yet, then don’t even mess in that direction. That’s right, I’m saying that if you’re not interested in the wife/husband and kids, then don’t stay around the dating scene. It has a tendency of growing on you, and you’ll be settled and married before you know it.

Oh, and have some fun. If you have chosen to take this summer off, then enjoy it and live it up, because you will never get another summer off for the rest of your life. I wish I had taken the summer after my senior year and lived a little more instead of jumping right into my grown-up job.

Congratulations on your accomplishments, graduates. Now, it’s on to the real world.