Graduating with a 3.2 GPA, I wasn’t afforded the option of being a speaker to my graduating class.
I was an underachiever, and we all knew it. As my own private “gotcha,” I have made my own “graduation speech” in The Boyne City Gazette each year since its inception.
Luckily for all of you, it changes every year as my outlook on life flows with my experiences. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is my obsession with making lists to get my point across, so here goes: Chris’s five kind suggestions for a healthier, happier, more successful, and more exciting life.
1. Show respect to everyone—I picked up this one from your very own band teacher, so it might sound familiar — oh well. If you get into the habit of showing respect to everyone you meet, you’ll find good meaningful relationships in the strangest places, and people who you never expected will change your life. If I had never taken the extra time to get to know the school secretaries, I never would have met Glenda Crane, whose personality and genuine affection for everyone made me a better person.
So every janitor, every support person, and even the people you run into in the grocery line — show them respect and kindness and watch it come back to you.
2. Drama is bad—Call it what you want, but it doesn’t work out in my part of the world, and in not too long, it won’t work out in yours either. Cat fighting, rumor spreading, and general high school drama (for lack of a better term) will quickly get you a bad reputation and make people less willing to talk to you, let alone be helpful.
So girls, abandon the thought that another girl can “steal your guy,” as after all, he is a living human being that makes his own choices. Guys, if you get into a fight over a girl, ask yourself what’s really causing the fight. Play nice, get along, and it’ll all be better soon.
3. There is no zero-tolerance policy against bullying out here—I know that for the past 13 years, a zero-tolerance policy made it against the rules to bully, laugh at, make fun of, and humiliate your fellow students. Having been one of those students once or twice myself, I understand why (trust me.) That said, there are real bullies out here, and there isn’t any backup from the teacher anymore. You see, they don’t push you down in the sandbox. They’re called bill collectors, attorneys, collection agencies, creditors, bosses, and administrators. These people have real power to make your life difficult and very little holding them back — grow a thicker skin and get ready.
4. Take simple opportunities—One of the first thing I was told as a medic was never to walk past an open bathroom, because the chance might not come again. This applies to a variety of things such as sleeping, eating, and having fun — all of which can become scarce as you go into work and college. Enjoy things like laying in the grass, listening to music, and driving down the road. Don’t miss out on the little things that make you happy.
5. Don’t forget home—I know, you got accepted into a big college and you can’t wait to get out. I know, if high school wasn’t the most enjoyable thing, the urge to leave might be overwhelming. Don’t ever forget the little things that make this place unique. I haven’t forgotten my chemistry teacher doing push-ups because he lost a bet — that doesn’t happen everywhere, guys.
I’ll never forget Marty Moody reading the froggy story in funny voices, and the class breaking out in laughter at the last line of the book: “Don’t forget your underwear!”
I’ll forever remember Karen Jarema welcoming me back into a place that felt like home and making sure I got every opportunity I could. Those are my blessings, and you have your own.
Was it a sports coach?
Perhaps it was your employer?
Maybe it was the newspaper guy wandering around with the camera (just kidding!)
Cherish everything that makes Boyne City your home, because while other places might seem brighter for a while, none will ever be like the town you grew up in.
One last thing, just for the heck of it.
Find a mentor—someone you like, someone you trust, and someone who seems kinda like you want to be someday. They don’t have to be in the same profession you want, just someone you could stand being like someday. Got one?
Now over time, I want you to suck every last bit of knowledge, wisdom, and experience you can out of them. And don’t think it’s an inconvenience, there is no greater compliment in the world. Go and find what you’re looking for, and remember there is a town up in Northern Michigan that will always love you for who you are.