I had the occasion recently to attend a high school graduation. I was there to see a group of young people I had had the pleasure of working with these past five years age instantly before my eyes. It is to these fine people and grads around the world that this is addressed.
My own matriculation occurred some 21 years ago. It was a proud seminal moment in my life, a crowning achievement, and the culmination of 13 years of schooling. The thing is, I don't remember much of it. The sands of time have shifted over the years, obscuring the details, dulling the memories. To be honest, I'm not even sure that the remembrances I do have weren't aided by the photographs scanned after the fact. The memories of the momentousness of my big night have faded into a recollection among others of things past.
The reason I mention all of this - aside from being a massive prick - is to actually give you some hope, believe it or not. Right now, and over the past few weeks, amid the elation and relief, have likely been some tears and even a few fears (that would make an awesome band name). While it's true that a huge and defining part of your lives is coming to an end, the rest of it is just starting.
Oh. So that part's also causing you to shit the proverbial bed?
Well, what if I told you that a part of the rest of your life is just starting? Up to this point in your life, you've likely been led to believe that your life is divided into three parts --> before high school, during high school, and after high school. Right now the after high school part is looking pretty big huh? Well it is. It's freaking huge. There's just so much to do. The truth is, however, that the best part of living life is figuring out how you want to live it. The trick is, you can't figure out what you want to do with it unless you go out and do.
Go. Do. Some of my newly minted friends may find that familiar.
I've told every class and every student I've ever taught and every actor I've ever directed that I'd rather see them fail spectacularly than succeed mediocrely. What I mean is that in life, as in scene-work, you need to launch yourself at your goal with 100% of your efforts. Without complete commitment, you will never succeed completely.
Success through failure.
Failure in life is unavoidable. Lack of commitment is entirely avoidable. If you want to be an actor, failure is 90% of your career, but it is also present in every other profession and in life. If you don't fail, you will never understand what it takes to succeed.
Don't do anything halfway. Give everything your all. I don't care what you want to achieve in life, but allowing your passions to guide you is a great way to lead a happy life. The old adage reads: "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." But it runs deeper than that. Show yourself to be passionate in every aspect of your life and you'll never have to wonder "what if?"
Lastly, realize that in all of this you only have one life. Don't let anyone take that away from you by making if less than it deserves to be. Don't allow others to dictate the terms of your life. Don't waste the finite preciousness of your existence. Be good to others. Be honorable. Be moral. You are the sum of your experiences. The better the experiences, the better the sum. Some days those experiences are unmatched - yes, para-sailing with the Dalai Lama in the AM and dinner and strip Yahtzee with Carrie Underwood in the PM was pretty amazing, but so too was that solitary latte when you fell in love with Hemingway, or that time you laughed for an hour over some inane joke with a friend.
You're too young to get this yet, but life hurtles past you at break-neck speed. Don't waste any of it needlessly beating yourself up or not following your dreams. Jump in with both feet and squeeze every last drop of awesome out of it. Don't let anything get you down longer than you have to. Love yourself. Be in love. Be proud of yourself. Your families are proud of you. I'm proud of you.
Do great things.