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Kristi Gilbert: Listen Up, Class of 2012, and You Might Learn Something

I want to offer a few life lessons I've learned since my graduation days.

I vaguely remember my graduation from high school. I say this because it was 15 years ago, and since then a load of other great memories have flooded my poor memory.

Well, that and a boatload of wine.

What I do recall, though, is the excitement of the open opportunity awaiting me—that I could do whatever I wanted, be who I wanted, and that the world was just out there, waiting for me to snatch it up and make it mine. How amazing, right? I mean, how many times to we get that opportunity in our lifetime? 

I, like many high school grads, didn't have a clue what I wanted to do, but I was accepted to the University of Missouri for the following fall, so I was stoked. The freedom of being two hours from home, away from the parents was thrilling yet frightening, to say the least. Thankfully my parents raised me to have a fairly good head on my shoulders, which means I not only had a great time but I also managed to get pretty decent grades.

So with graduation ceremonies upon us, I can't help but reminisce. It's bittersweet looking back; I was so clueless but as a new "adult" I had the freedom to make my own decisions going forward and that feeling was definitely new, and totally exhilarating. I had the world in front of me. I could do and be anything I wanted. 

My how times have changed. 

At 33, the outlook is quite different. My path is decided. Lucky for me, the path has a nice view. I was fortunate that the pieces fell together, picture perfect. I am now a mom of two little darlings and my thoughts and daydreams are no longer consumed with dreams for myself, rather my hopes are for my kids' happiness and successes. 

So what is my point? I guess I just have a few bits of advice for the new graduates of our local schools.

To the Class of 2012 (which surely contains the genius beings what will shape the future of our world): heed my advice.

  • Try to remember why you are where you are. Be it school, military, or work, you are there for a purpose. Let that be your main focus. Everything else is just "everything else."
  • This time is yours and yours alone; embrace it. Never again (for most of us) will you have the freedom you are about to encounter. 
  • Don't waste Mom and Dad’s hard-earned money on nonsense. After all, you’re spending your future inheritance. Spend wisely, young grasshoppers.
  • Call your mom and dad often. They have looked you in the face for the last 18 years, nurtured you and loved you unconditionally, despite your intermittent bad attitudes, demanding schedules (Mom or Dad being your personal driver to and from your extracurriculars), and unending demands. They made you who you are today. Be thankful. A phone call will not only make their day, but hearing that familiar voice will surely make your day, too.
  • Visit home when you can. Yes, you might miss a "major party," but a visit home will do wonders for your soul. And don’t forget to bring home the six sacks of dirty laundry so Mom can do it while simultaneously whipping up your favorite home-cooked meal you’ve missed so much.
  • Regardless where you go, try to be yourself, and avoid being someone trying to fit in. Remember the values your sweet parents instilled in you. You will be so proud of yourself when you look back on the moments that you didn't just "follow along."

 Lastly, try to meet a wide variety of people:

  • Get a job. Yes a job. I worked through college and made some of my best friends that I later lived with after graduation. They were even in my wedding.
  • Join a sorority or frat.
  • Join an athletic organization.

Before you know it, you will have friends in every capacity, which certainly helps when you're trying to ace that econ exam and you need a study group with some super-smarties.

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Over the last year I've read on Patch all about some extraordinary Class of 2012 students.

Burr Ridge resident and Nazareth senior Megan McAuliffe helped organize during the holidays.

participated in all sorts of great extracurriculars throughout his four years at and plans to get a business degree. 

began at Hinsdale South as a sophomore two weeks after moving to the area from the Republic of Congo and knowing only French. He's since become a varsity soccer player and has decided he wants to become a doctor. 

So many of this year's seniors have been the cause of so much inspiration.

The world is waiting for you, Class of 2012. Make it a better place. Choose wisely. Study more. Drink less. Dream big. We are counting on you. 

And lastly, don't forget to thank Mom and Dad for making you who you are and giving you all the opportunity that lies ahead of you. Make it count. 

What advice do you have for the Class of 2012? What should their approach be to college? What values should they always keep in mind? 

Tell them in the comment section below!

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