Advice from the Dad of a Grad

 Lessons learned on the third rock from the sun

My daughter Sydney will graduate from Falmouth High School next week, completing one journey of life and learning and starting another, alongside nearly 300 classmates.  As a forty-year-old Dad of a grad, I am just figuring out my own place in our community and on this third rock from the sun, much less imparting wisdom to our graduating seniors.  What I can offer, though, are some lessons learned in my own journey to our newest full-fledged adult Falmouthites. 

I've learned that there is no substitute for sincerity.  Our grads will become everything from caregivers to CEOs, from laborers to lawyers.  No matter the vocation, the value of saying what you think far outweighs the value of saying what you think someone wants to hear.  I've learned that service to others is not a career choice; it is a way of life, a defining philosophy.  It is simply the law of averages and the mores of our society that some crossing the platform and receiving official kudos and recognition from the Falmouth School Committee will pursue service to others, and some will not.  To those that do, do it because you can feel it deep in your soul that making this place better for others is who you are, not who you want others to think you are. 

I've learned that the teachers who touch your lives in high school can truly leave an imprint on your entire life.  The lessons I learned from men like Joe Studley, Ted Rowan, and Paul Cali are with me today.  Hard work, respect, fairness, and kindness can be learned from others - High School is not just about Euclid and the Telltale Heart.

I've learned that whoever said that showing up is half the battle was right, and this includes classes in college.  On that note, I've also learned that college is not a four-year respite from responsibility, it is the opportunity to demonstrate some. It is indeed the gateway to the odyssey and should be cherished.    

I've learned that being patient with yourself is one of the most important components to success.  Out of college, I rushed and clamored to achieve and meet the goals I had established to attain before the age of 30.  That birthday was a stinker because those lofty goals had not been met.  That disappointment clouded my ability to see the importance and value of what I had accomplished.  Now, many years and many lessons later, I realize that a career, like a life, is a journey, not a destination.  The value is in learning, growing, and sharing those lessons as we progress. 

I've learned that the road of life inevitably leads back to people we've met and places we've been, as long as we don't burn bridges along the way.  I also know it's never too late to repair a bridge - even plank by plank - if you've burned it.

I've learned that as much as we think we know - leaving high school, college, or grad school - there are new lessons to learn every day.  I've lived in Falmouth most of my life and meet new people that touch my heart and teach me something every week.  I learned what an allen wrench is at 35, the ingredients to a seven layer bar at 38, and read my favorite book at 40.

I've learned to take nothing for granted, and to never doubt the power of ideas.  When I graduated from FHS more than twenty years ago, there were no i-pods, laptops, e-mails or microwave popcorn.  Polaroids were the closest thing to digital cameras, wind power was found in convertibles with the top down, and you did your research at the library or at a neighbor's house who had an updated set of encyclopedias.  On the other hand, I've learned that good pizza is timeless.  Paul's, Kosta's, Steve's and the North Falmouth House of Pizza are proof that some things, some good things, never change. 

So to you, my dearest Sydney, and all graduates of the Class of 2009 - know that as much as the i-pod and facebook define you today, they will be the nostalgia of your tomorrow.  Cling to the Paul's pizzas, the constants in your life in this wonderful small town, that defined your youth, and be prepared to use that foundation to create and define tomorrow for us all.

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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