It's hard to believe that in only a few days you will be among the hundreds of young men and women in Howard County who will receive their diplomas as high school graduates.
As you walk across the stage at Merriweather Post Pavilion, I know my thoughts will travel back to that first walk you made, across the living room floor to your pop. At 9 months old, your gait was steady. You exhibited the confidence that I have now come to expect from you.
Pulled up stakes
I know that hasn't always been easy. We pulled up stakes and moved twice. The last time was just before you were about to enter high school. We asked you to leave childhood friends 800 miles away and forget the plans that you all had made. We prayed that you and your brother would thrive in this new place as you had before.
Neither of you has ever disappointed us.
Sure, like most teen-agers, you have tried your folks' patience at times. There was that period around age 16 when you discovered it was fun to hang out with your new "slacker" buds. It didn't bother you that they were all boys. But your parents worried a bit.
Allowed to find your own way, you eventually put our fears to rest by expanding your circle of friends to include all types of kids who share a common goal -- success.
You have taken leadership roles in school activities even though someone else was supposed to be in charge. Your mother and I have marveled at how someone who seems so disorganized can get things done. We noticed that you like things done right, no matter who gets credit.
I snickered when you went out for the softball team, a sport you hadn't played since you were 9 years old. But your determination made you a valuable hitter. You mastered enough gymnastics to be captain of an award-winning cheerleading squad. You even put to use all those dance lessons at Corky Bell Studios by performing in school stage productions.
With all that you have done, I should be eagerly looking forward to this next phase of your life. But I wouldn't be a parent if I didn't have mixed feelings.
Like many of your classmates, you have decided to go away to college. You want to experience what it is like to be on your own. I want you to know what it is like, too. But I know that not every experience you have will be pleasant.
Parents wish their children would learn all they need to know about life by listening. But children learning to be adults don't absorb the most important lessons until they experience them.
A few things not to repeat
So, let me remind you of a few experiences you have already had and don't need to repeat.
For example, the time you wrecked the used car you had just bought was a lesson in what can happen when you get distracted. You only took your eyes off the road a second to wipe something off the windshield. The next thing you knew you had hit another car.
It could have been worse. No one was hurt. They even saved your car. Your life is much more valuable. Don't allow distractions to ruin it. There will be concerts, movies and parties. There will be young men who have convinced themselves that lust is love, and want you to do the same. There will be girlfriends who are more interested in being glamorous than concentrating on their books.
Don't let them distract you.
You have shown you have the ability to accomplish anything when you stay focused. If you're ever having trouble doing that, give us a call. We know how to motivate from long distance. Our parents did it for us.
Remind yourself of Stephanie, Sly, Dale, Brittany, Hyun, Shuchi, Keisha and Rashad. These are probably the best friends you have made in your 18 years of life. They will probably still be your friends 18 years from now.
Remind yourself of what it is about them that makes you call them friends. I'll bet it's not just your common interests. It's the fact that their friendship comes without any strings; it's genuine.
They don't want anything from you but your friendship. People who want more than that just want to use you.
There are so many experiences and people that you could think of when facing difficult situations.
Do what is best
What you, what any of the thousands of teen-agers leaving high school -- whether for college or that first real job -- must remember to do is think. Don't act impulsively. Take a moment to consider the consequences of every action. Pray for guidance when you don't know what to do.
Don't base your decisions on what mama and daddy would like. Do what you know is best for you. You have dreams and goals that you have the good sense and ability to make possible.
Don't allow someone who doesn't have your confidence to weaken your resolve. Show them, show everybody, the way you showed me long ago, that when you make up your mind to walk you're not going to crawl.
Harold Jackson is The Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.
Pub Date: 5/24/98