According to Me: Your mountain is waiting

Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2015. You’ve spent the last 13 years navigating the treacherous, tumultuous, obstacle-riddled waters of the K-12 education system. And all your hard work and dedication has brought you to this point. Revel in your accomplishment. Toss your oddly-shaped hat into the air and enjoy the last few moments with the social group that has become an indispensable piece of your reality over the last several years.

Take a deep breath. Drink the moment in. And as the blur of graduation brings your new reality into focus, brace yourself for this truth: nothing is as it used to be.

In the coming months, you’ll come to understand that those treacherous, tumultuous, obstacle-riddled waters you’ve navigated so successfully were actually protected and you were insulated from most real problems by a sanctioning body of parents, teachers, administrators, support personnel, coaches, community leaders and the like. Where you are going, there will be less help.

Because you’re heading into life and it, by and large, does not care where you are from, who your parents are, what your past is, what your home situation is like, what kind of grades you’ve made or that you are really smart but just struggle with motivation. Life is uncaring, unfeeling and unkind over a duration that is undetermined. But, life is funny in that it can also be the opposite of all those things. What it will be for you is all hinged upon how you embrace it. Life is most cruel to those with no direction and with no sense of self.

So, you’ll find it poignant to answer two important questions: who are you and where are you going?

As you ready for college or the workforce or defining the question mark that still hangs over your envisioned future, you must make decisions about yourself lest they be made for you.

Who are you? What is important to you? What values do you hold dear? What will you do in any given situation? What won’t you do in any given situation?

And as you define those variables, you must determine your direction; as that, too, can be easily determined for you. What are your goals? What path must you take to achieve them? And are you ready to navigate the roadblocks when they inevitably come?

See, that’s the thing for which no one can truly prepare you. Roadblocks are coming. Frustrations are coming. You’re going to have days that you long for the safety and comfort of home and the peace of the high school routine, the security of that group of friends. And who you are, who you’ve decided to be, is the single most important factor in determining how you will navigate those roadblocks and shake off those bad days.

There is a pervasive positivity in the writings of Theodor Geisel, but that positivity is tempered with a firm handle on reality. In one of his greatest works, “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” he tackles with Seussian fervor the splendor of dealing with the newfound freedom you now have.

His poem moves in three parts to carry the reader across a life well lived. For you, two of those parts are pretty much guaranteed. The third part? Well, that’s up to you.

Seuss’s “understood you” spends the first part of the book exploring all the possibilities amid a hopeful tone. In the middle portion, he is mired in the muck of bad days, indecision and the hopelessness of waiting. The difficulty of the reality you now face is that the second part of the story is as much of a guarantee as the first.

It’s up to you to persevere and press into something else.

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

Jeremy D. Smith is managing partner of The West Alabama Watchman. He has covered news and sports in Demopolis since 2008. His column, According to Me, appears weekly on