An open letter to this year’s local high school and college graduates:

Congratulations!

I know that everyone, everywhere, is telling you that now, but don’t ignore them or pass off what they’re saying. They mean it. They’re doing it because they care about you and, in some cases, even love you. They want you to succeed in life, and your graduation puts you a step – even a big step – closer to that.

As such, kindly accept their well wishes. It will make them feel better, and you, too.

So what’s next?

That’s really up to you.

For many of you, your educational choices have been pretty structured, and, in a lot of cases, perhaps somewhat limited, to this point in your schooling. You’ve had to do what someone else thinks you should, and not necessarily always what you wanted to do. But from now on, you’ll have choices – many, many choices. They are almost limitless, really. It will be up go you to make those decisions.

That is mostly good, certainly, but it’s also bad in a way. With so many paths available, which one do you choose?

As you ponder that question – as you try to determine what’s best for you – I humbly suggest to keep in mind another simple, but oh, so important question, and some follow-up questions.

That is: What is your passion?

To put it more clearly, what do you like to do best? What do you think about – fantasize about, dream about – not just during your free moments, but also when you should be thinking about something else?

What would you like to do professionally for the rest of your life?

What is it that makes you smile?

What makes you laugh and cry, at times simultaneously?

What puts a song into your heart and a twinkle into your eye?

What do you think you know the most about, and would love to know even more about?

What would you offer to do for free if it came to that?

Be honest with yourself as you contemplate these questions.

Don’t say one thing and mean another. Don’t say what you think your parents, your friends or other people close to you, want you to say.

Don’t pick a field or a job or a path only because it will make you a lot of money. Or only because there’s a cute man or woman working there who you like to meet. Or only because the hours are great. Or only because the benefits – both real and intangible – are off the charts. Or only because it’s close to home. Or only because it’s somewhere you’d like to live. Or only because it will make you feel important, or look important to people around you. Or only because it’s easy and won’t challenge you. Or only because it’s hard and you need something to conquer.

Those are all the wrong reasons. They will lead you down the wrong road, eventually taking you to a dead end that will leave you sad, disappointed and unfulfilled.

Instead, pick what you want – exactly what you want. Remember, it’s you we’re talking about here. You’re the only one you have to satisfy. Everybody else will have to be happy with your choice, and if they really love you and care for you, they’ll be all right with it.

Now, when you finally decide what it – your calling – is, go after it with everything you’ve got. Do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, whether it’s getting more education or training, gaining an apprenticeship, serving as an intern or anything else.

It will not be easy. If it were easy, then it wouldn’t be worth your time and effort.

If you want it badly enough, then you’ll be more than willing to do that.

And when you do, be prepared to start at the very bottom and work your way up. So check your pride at the door and leave it there. It has no place here.

There will be times when you seem so far from where you want to be that you’ll think you’ll never get there. But you can’t get discouraged. You have to be patient – probably more patient than you’ve ever been in your life. Good things require time – most times, lots of time.

Don’t worry. You’ll get there – that is, if you want it so badly that you can practically taste it. And that’s what it will take.

As you can go through this tedious process, think about this: It’s been said that if you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s the truth almost all of time, but there will be instances when you’ll be in a foul mood or you don’t feel well or you just don’t want to go to work. For whatever reason, you will simply want to stay home that day. It will happen. It happens to everybody.

Understanding that, then, if you hate the job on your best day, how much more miserable will it be for you on that "crabby" day? It will be more than you can take. It will be a prison, from which there is no escape.

You deserve better than that.

But enough talk. Now get out there and find your passion and begin doing the things necessary to make it a reality in your life.

Good luck.

Sincerely,

Steve King