I want to congratulate the graduating class of 2022. You did it! Whether you’re graduating from Kindergarten or Medical School, you still made it. However, what does graduation even mean? Let’s start with graduating. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Graduate is a verb that means “to pass from one stage of experience, proficiency, or prestige to a usually higher one.” It reminds me of unlocking levels in a game. Once you have done the hard work and figured out how to unlock one level, you are on to the next challenging level.

A great example is when you leave middle school and go to high school. You are typical “the big man on campus” at the end of middle school.” You are in the oldest grade and have the most experience and privilege. Fast forward to freshman year, where you are at the bottom of the food chain. You have to work hard to get to senior year. As many people would agree, there are only a few things better than your senior year of high school. I am not saying it is the best moment of your life or that you peaked in high school (because I don’t believe in peaks – I think we are all on a natural ascent). My only point here is to enjoy it.

No one thinks or believes it at the time because your life is going in a new and exciting direction, but hold onto those moments. You will be surprised at how quickly you will miss them. You will miss your friends; this is the last time you will all be together, united by the same milestone. Next year you will be separated by miles due to different university choices. It is not scary, as it is shocking how quickly your life will change in the next few months. You will even miss your parents/guardians (cue the eye-rolls). I know, I know, but hear me out. When you are sick or having a bad day, your caretaker makes you your favorite meal just because. You will miss that. You’ll miss the goofy moments, celebrations of victories, and even the comforting shoulder to cry on. It is a bittersweet transition, but now it is your time. Your time to be your own hero. Your time to be an adult (which you have been waiting for) is finally here. Ready or not.

In his famous play, Hamlet, Mr. Bill Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, “This above all: to thine own self be true…”. Simple words, yes, but one of the most important lessons we can learn nevertheless. As you embark on high school, college, or graduate school, remember who you are and what you stand for. You will be challenged, especially as you grow older, on your beliefs. Remember to hold on strong to your ideals and values. You will meet others who think differently (not a bad thing), but it will make you question what you stand for. Remember your heart in this very moment. Consider even writing down your significant values so you can look back at your notes when they are challenged. Your notes will remind you why you believe what you believe. Don’t let others impede upon your morals and ideals. No one truly knows your core but you. Don’t waiver to appease anyone else because you have to live with your actions (good and bad) at the end of the day.

The good news is we all make mistakes and shift our beliefs a few times throughout our lifetime. My only ask is that you change your beliefs for YOU and not anyone else. At the end of the day, you’re the one living your life, not anyone else.